Engaging the Culture with Grace and Truth
GLOBAL CHRISTIANITY THE GOSPEL AND CULTURAL EXPRESSIONS Jack Carson Mark Allen
WHO’S AFRAID OF PLURALISM? Alister McGrath
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GLOBAL TELLING OF THE GLOBAL TELLING OF OUR STORY
ORTHODOXY IN GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE Vince Bantu
CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE Melody Harper
AN INTERVIEW WITH BRUCE ASHFORD
Volu me 3 • Is s ue 1 Fall 2018
FALL 2018 Joshua D. Chatraw, Executive Editor Benjamin K. Forrest, Managing Editor Jack Carson, Associate Editor Joshua Erb, Assistant to the Managing Editor Edward E. Hindson, Editorial Board Gary Isaacs, Editorial Board Elisa Rollins, Editorial Board Gabriel B. Etzel, Editorial Board
Joshua Rice, Creative Director Emilee Ellsworth, Marketing Director Michael Strobel, Marketing Manager Ida Winstead, Project Coordinator Adie Hayes, Project Coordinator Annie Shelmerdine, Graphic Designer Allison Shannon, Promotional Writer
/LibertyUACE | @ LibertyUACE | envelope ACE@liberty.edu | location-arrow Liberty.edu/ACE
“Global Christianity," Faith and the Academy: Engaging Culture with Grace and Truth 3, no. 1 (Fall 2018): A publication of Liberty University Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement
FA I T H A N D T H E A C A D E M Y: E N G A G I N G T H E C U LT U R E W I T H G R A C E A N D T R U T H
MISSION IN AN AGE OF GLOBAL CHRISTIANITY
CONNECTING WITH SECULAR MUSLIMS THROUGH HISTORY AND FILM
EXPERIENCES FROM EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION
BIOSAND WATER FILTER IMPLEMENTATION AND MONITORING: PUBLIC HEALTH RESEARCH IN RWANDA
Edward L. Smither
Bethesda Oâ€™Connell Dominique Richburg
8 The Gospel and Cultural Expressions: The Need for a Global Ethic of Love Jack Carson, Coordinator, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement, Liberty University Mark Allen, Chair of Biblical Studies, Rawlings School of Divinity, Liberty University
12 Cultural Intelligence: Pedagogy for Kingdom-Oriented Education Melody Harper, Department Chair and Assistant Professor of Global Studies, Rawlings School of Divinity, Liberty University
16 Who’s Afraid of Pluralism? Alister McGrath, Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion, University of Oxford
27 Listening Well for the Sake of the Gospel: An Interview with Bruce Ashford 30 Mission in an Age of Global Christianity Frank Fox, Professor of Global Studies, Rawlings School of Divinity, Liberty University
33 Connecting with Secular Muslims through History and Film: Evaluating "Augustine: Son of Her Tears.” Edward L. Smither, Dean of Intercultural Studies, Columbia International University
38 Experiences from Global Education: The Need for Cultural Intelligence Joshua Michael '18, Global Studies Graduate, Liberty University
20 Orthodoxy in Global Perspective: The Reception of Nicene Theology in the Syriac World Vince Bantu, Visiting Professor of Missiology, and Director of the City Ministry Initiative, Covenant Theological Seminary
24 The Importance of the Global Telling of the Global Telling of our Story: The Potential of Missiological Research David Hosaflook, Instructor of History, Liberty University
39 Leveraging Business as a Tool for Kingdom Advancement Eliza Hatfield '17, Global Studies Graduate, Liberty University
40 Biosand Water Filter Implementation and Monitoring: Public Health Research in Rwanda Bethesda O’Connell, Assistant Professor of Public and Community Health, School of Health Sciences, Liberty University Dominique Richburg, Department of Public and Community Health, School of Health Sciences, Liberty University
FA I T H A N D T H E A C A D E M Y: E N G A G I N G T H E C U LT U R E W I T H G R A C E A N D T R U T H
44 Redemptive Motive as a Basis for Dialogue: Interdisciplinary Engagement from Communications and Global Studies
52 Theology in the Context of World Christianity by Timothy Tennent
Donald H. Alban Jr., Professor of Communication Studies, School of Communication & Digital Content, Liberty University C. Tim Chang, Associate Professor of Global Studies, Rawlings School of Divinity, Liberty University
46 A Christian Education in Name and Essence: Interdisciplinary Engagement from Spiritual Formation and Counseling Claudia E. Dempsey, Associate Professor of Religion, Rawlings School of Divinity, Liberty University Joy Mwendwa, Associate Professor of Counseling, School of Behavioral Sciences, Liberty University
49 Conversing with Culture about our Shared Stories: Interdisciplinary Engagement from Literature and Philosophy Nathan Valle, Assistant Professor of English, College of Arts and Sciences, Liberty University Sean Turchin, Associate Professor of Philosophy, College of Arts and Sciences, Liberty University
Gabe McGann, Student Fellow, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement, Liberty University
53 A Trinitarian Theology of Religions by Gerald R. McDermott and Harold A. Netland Sarah Stewart, Student Fellow, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement, Liberty University
Training Champions for Christ since 1971
Jack Carson Coordinator of Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement, Liberty University Mark Allen Chair of Biblical Studies, Rawlings School of Divinity, Liberty University
THE GOSPEL AND CULTURAL EXPRESSIONS: THE NEED FOR A GLOBAL ETHIC OF LOVE The editorial board commissioned this edition of Faith and the Academy around a global vision—a vision, found in Revelation 7:9, of every tribe, nation, and tongue worshiping as one. The Christian faith’s eschatological vision does not minimize the uniqueness of individuals but instead recognizes the innate goodness of diversity. One of the clearest forms of diversity, evident in the global church today, is cultural diversity. The global Christian church is growing more diverse in its cultural expressions, and it is necessary, both for pragmatic and theological reasons, for western believers to develop a clear method of relating to believers of other cultures with love and respect.
culture—and the conflation of Western thought with the Gospel—ignored the eschatological vision of the church and caused harm to the mission of the Gospel; it was an idolatry of our own culture, a perverse sort of pride. Acts 15 stands as a contrast to this sort of cultural idolatry. The church leadership in Jerusalem gathered to decide the simple question, “Did gentile believers need to become Jewish in culture and custom in order to become Christian?” The Jerusalem council’s decision to allow gentile believers to maintain their own cultural identity and still be able to follow Christ set the stage for the numerous cultural expressions that Christianity has taken since then.
We have not always done this well. Victor Ezigbo, in his comprehensive analysis of African Christological development, suggests that Western Christians brought “Jesus the Imperialist” to Africa “with the intent to capture the land, the mind, and the indigenous worldviews of the local people. For this Jesus… Africans must drop their unique identity and adopt the theological mindsets and religious hermeneutics of the West in order for them to qualify as his true disciples.”¹ This elevation of Western
Christianity is global, not simply in the sense that it has stretched into nearly every nation, but ultimately in the sense that no region can claim primary ownership of its history or future. The Christian faith has shifted significantly throughout its existence, its center of influence moving from point to point. Andrew Walls deals with this dynamic in his work, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History. As a test case, he demonstrates the difference between Christian and Islamic expansion. He argues that,
while Islamic expansion has been largely consistent and predictable, Christian expansion and growth has been dynamic and unpredictable—moving its center of power from Jerusalem to Rome, Rome to the barbarian tribes, Europe to America, and now from America to the global south. He explains that this dynamic is, to some degree, a result of the cultural flexibility of Christianity. He writes, “Islamic absolutes are fixed in a particular language, and in the conditions of a particular period of human history. The divine word is the Qur’an, fixed in heaven forever in Arabic.” Christianity, however, rests on the very act of translation, “the word made flesh.”2 One of the centerpieces of Christianity, the Incarnation, is a divine act of accommodation—one which was, to some degree, an accommodation to human culture. This accommodation accomplished two things simultaneously, both endorsing the worth of human culture and also subverting all human authority, installing a new King and providing a picture of what human culture will eventually become. The twofold nature of this accommodation leads to two ways in which Christianity interacts with the various cultures of the world. First, Christianity operates within what Walls calls an “indigenizing principle.”3 This principle recognizes that Christ accepts people “just as they are,” which allows believers to “indigenize” Christianity within a culture. Following in the footsteps of the Jerusalem council, the Church has shifted and accommodated various cultures and expressions throughout her history. The way in which Christianity is practiced in the modern western world is radically different than the way it was practiced in Jerusalem in AD 60. Christians today do not gather in a temple, and the vast majority of them do not follow the Jewish ritual calendar. Likewise, the manner that Christianity is practiced and thought about within the global south looks different from how Christianity is practiced within the walls of American
churches. This diversity is not a problem to be worked through but an essential goodness built into Christian history and theology. Second, Walls suggests that Christianity always carries with it a “Pilgrim principle.”4 While all humans are culturally bound, Christians have a unique identity as citizens of a greater heavenly kingdom. Since Christians are primarily pilgrims in this world, sojourners waiting for their true home, they can maintain a certain critical distance from their own culture. The ultimate allegiance for any believer is to Christ the King, not to a specific culture. However, this loyalty to Christ does not remove someone from his or her cultural context, creating some version of Christianity that is not bound to culture. Instead, this loyalty to Christ provides the resources to engage a culture from the inside for its redemption and transformation. This dual-natured relationship between Christianity and culture makes perfect sense within the greater framework of creation, fall, and redemption. Humanity was created with a mandate to, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it (Gen 1:28, ESV).” This mandate included the creation of culture—the organization, structures, and ideas of society—from the very beginning. After the fall, human nature had been damaged to such a point that the culture it created would carry with it the taint of sin. However, the Divine intervention through the cross, made possible by that specific accommodation to humanity found within the incarnation, has given a path to the redemption of culture. The Gospel working out from within a culture will always cause tension with the fallen culture. However, just as the Gospel
works from the inside of each individual, resulting in a changed heart before changed actions, it works the same within cultures. The Gospel does not remove the unique personalities and identities of believers, and it does not demand a transformation of a given culture’s expressions and patterns. Ultimately, however, the Gospel will create tension in any culture as it begins to point towards the needed redemption. This tension will create cultural transformation, but that transformation is best accomplished from the inside of a given culture. As Frank Fox notes later in this issue, the Western church must reimagine its relationship with the rest of the global church. While the Gospel will challenge each culture, it should not be used as a tool to turn them into clones of the western world. The Gospel is grander than that; it endorses cultural distinctions and diversity. Rather than subtly presupposing cultural superiority—or possibly worse, harboring a fear of other cultures—the Church in the west must center itself on an “ethic of love” rooted in the eschatological vision of John in Revelation 7:9. If every tribe, nation, peoples, and tongue will be present in the heavenly worship of the Lamb, then we have a role to play – now – in beginning such worship in our microcosms of that wonderful day. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, reminds us of the nature of love. In many ways, this passage can serve as a blueprint for Christ-exalting relationships across sometimes confusing cultural lines. It reminds us that love is not proud or self-seeking. If we “give all [we] possess to the poor” around the world, but we do so with pride, we gain nothing. If we “give [our] bodies to hardship so that [we] may boast” about our impact on the world, we are like clanging cymbals. “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” We must endeavor to exemplify these traits in our relationships with believers around the world. If we turn our backs on their plights instead of seeking
to protect them, we fail in our mission to love well. The Cross, the very thing that binds believers together no matter how different their cultures are, provides the motivation and the strategy for Global Christian engagement. Just as Christ, in love, sacrificed himself on the cross, the various parts of his church should seek to sacrificially love each other well. For the western church, one way this can be done is through material support; yet, if this too is not rooted in and accompanied by love, it is as Paul said, empty and useless noise. So, how do we move toward this ethic of love in a global context – recognizing that our voices have opportunity to encourage rich conversations, inspire students, and bring the Gospel into places that sorely need it? It is the aim of this issue to proffer what will amount to a few suggestions towards answering this important question. Our prayer is that each article in this journal will help you reflect on how to love your neighbors well—both here and abroad. By growing to understand diverse cultures, respect their unique identities and values, and contextualize effectively, we will be able to help train and produce Christ-followers who will not only be champions in their professions, but will also be humble examples of wisdom and love to the world around them—no matter the cultures with which they interact.
Victor I. Ezigbo, Re-Imagining African Christologies: Conversing with Interpretations and Appropriations of Jesus Christ in African Christianity, Princeton Theological Monograph Series 119 (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2010), 15. 1
Andrew F. Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission and Appropriation of Faith (Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis Books, 2002), 29. 2
Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith (Maryknoll, N.Y. : Edinburgh: Orbis Books; T&T Clark, 1996), 7. 3
GROWTH The Faith and the Academy journal was launched in Fall 2016 by Dr. Joshua Chatraw, the journal’s first Executive Editor. His leadership has been essential to the journal’s success since its inception. We wish him God’s blessings as he transitions into a new venture working with a faith and works initiative, New City Fellows, in Raleigh, N.C.
We are also very pleased to announce that Dr. Mark Allen will be serving as our Executive Editor for future editions of Faith and the Academy, as well as the new Executive Director of the Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement. Dr. Allen (Ph.D. Notre Dame, D.Min. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is a nationally recognized expert, and we are looking forward to great things under his leadership.
The Rawlings School of Divinity Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement exists to equip students, faculty, and staff of Liberty University and the larger Christian community with the most rigorous and up-to-date training in the interactions of Christianity, apologetics, and culture. With the help of Faith and the Academy, we can do just that.
Melody Harper Department Chair and Assistant Professor of Global Studies, Rawlings School of Divinity, Liberty University
Cultural Intelligence: PEDAGOGY FOR KINGDOM-ORIENTED EDUCATION In 2001, I was living and working in Southeast Asia. A normal week included traveling to various countries in the region, discovering the richness of each new culture, and experiencing the religious rhythms of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism among those with whom I met. Between travels, I would return home to the island nation of Singapore. My neighbors were Chinese, my closest friend was Indian, and my favorite shop owner and his family were Malaysian. The diversity of cultures around me challenged my worldview and deepened my faith; my view of God expanded, my belief in God’s word was strengthened, and my understanding of God’s love for all people grew. It was here that my firsthand experience with various cultures began. Now, I find myself in Lynchburg, Virginia. While not the same metropolis of culture that Singapore is, it is certainly more culturally diverse than one might expect for a small town. The world is more connected today than at any other point in human history. Technology has removed the
barriers of travel and connection, voluntary migration has increased, and conversely, involuntary migration due to regional conflicts and natural disasters has produced unprecedented levels of displacement and a global refugee crisis unequaled in history.1 Technology has also connected us on a very individual level as well—our very phones alert us every few minutes with updates of events and opinions from both down the street and around the world. This is just a very brief snapshot of the realities experienced by the 7.6 billion people of our world.2 Though each individual life of these billions is created in God’s image and loved by the Creator, only about 2.2 billion, approximately 31%, identify as Christian.3 Christianity is currently the largest religion in the world, with more followers in Latin America and Asia than in North America and Europe. The concentration of Christianity in these areas will likely continue, but current trends also project Islam will soon be the largest religion in the world.4 While some Christians may seek
FA I T H A N D T H E A C A D E M Y: E N G A G I N G T H E C U LT U R E W I T H G R A C E A N D T R U T H
to isolate themselves from these realities, it is necessary for people of faith and of the academy to consider the opportunities (and the mandates) available both in the midst and as a result of this newly interconnected, cultural context.
Missional Education My concern here is simple. First, I hope to make it clear that Christian educators must integrate the great commission into their teaching mission. Teaching in a vacuum, without considering the world into which our students will enter, ultimately fails in our pursuit of Kingdom-oriented education. Second, it my desire to make a case for the necessity of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) as a vital component of a Christian education in this globalized world. And lastly, I hope to provide a few brief suggestions regarding how peer-faculty can equip their students for CQ with a great-commission mindset.
(Matt 28:19-20). And while there in the future, the end goal for followers of Christ is to spend eternity in God’s presence, we often overlook the fact that this eternity includes brothers and sisters from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Rev. 7:9). These passages, along with many others, form a kingdomoriented instruction to the followers of Jesus to take His message unto the world and all her inhabitants. Throughout history, most people have lived within a geographic sphere that did not extend beyond their regional borders; but, with this connected moment, the world has greater togetherness than at any other point in history. This reality aids in our kingdom-oriented opportunities, and education is to be one of the vehicles to share this message and equip others unto this charge: to live and serve with the Kingdom of God dwelling in their minds and motivating their hands.
Cultural Intelligence in KingdomOriented Teaching
The kingdom of heaven is an already-but-not-yet reality. Christ has come to usher in his kingdom, and thus, believers are citizens of this kingdom— here and now. However, there is also an eschatological reality of the kingdom of heaven signifying future events. As educators, we instruct students to live as citizens of this kingdom now, but we also prepare them for the future realities of the fully revealed kingdom unto eternity. Thus, our educational aspirations are twofold: here and there. Therefore, we recognize that in the here we have an onus upon us to be salt and light (Matt 5:13-16), to give a reason for the hope that we have (1 Pet 3:14-17), and to make disciples of the nations
Cultural intelligence (CQ) is “the capability to function effectively across national, ethnic, and organizational cultures.”5 Popularized by David Livermore, the CQ framework has been applied in business, education, and ministry contexts.6 Integrating faith and learning into a culturally-aware-classroom opens students up to the potential of using their vocation in the world as a tool for kingdom-minded-ministry. In essence, CQ provides a framework that goes beyond mere knowledge of other cultures. It incorporates metacognitive processes that address both motivation and the application of knowledge to enable more effective interaction across cultures. It helps to increase
understanding, cultivate compassion, and facilitate dialogue to overcome stereotypes and biases. To be clear, CQ is not memorizing cultural trivia, nor is it cultural relativism. It does not mean that we condone and adapt to every other belief or expression in the name of cultural acceptance or tolerance. Every culture contains elements that reflect both the fingerprints of God and the brokenness of the world. Our identity as followers of Christ comes first, and the infallible, inspired word of God is our foundation for truth and purpose. It is this biblical foundation that emphasizes our mandate as followers of Jesus to make disciples of all nations. This biblical foundation informs our role as Christian educators involved in equipping students for a very diverse and multi-cultural world, and CQ provides a framework for this capability to be developed. As Christ followers compelled to love our neighbors, we integrate this philosophy into our teaching, and we model to our students a posture of listening to peoples of varying cultures who have walked very different journeys than ours. In this posture, we learn to dialogue with people who have different cultural, religious, and even political views, and in so doing show respect and Christ-like love. The students we send out become the evidence of our teaching, and in them we see whether or not our classrooms are preparing individuals to be salt and light in a multi-cultural world.
Pedagogical Suggestions for Kingdom-Oriented Classrooms Briefly, here are a few scenarios in which integrating CQ in various disciplines could add value to the studentâ€™s academic experience by equipping them to be globally-focused and kingdom-minded students for a vocation of kingdom-minded. 1. As we prepare student teachers, we must prepare them with knowledge about pedagogy and expertise in their subject area, but we should also equip them to facilitate a multi-cultural classroom and interact with parents operating from very different cultural and religious worldviews. 2. We must prepare future medical professionals with the skills to diagnose and treat patients, but also with the awareness to recognize the cultural and religious views that influence personal healthcare decisions and the respect to provide equitable and ethical care in response.
3. In business, we should equip students to navigate business deals in international commerce and with a cultural lens to consider how marketing messages communicate differently across cultures. 4. Engineers and IT professionals need the technical skills of their discipline, but also need to be prepared to communicate with diverse project teams and participate in virtual global work environments that require collaboration across cultures to accomplish the goal. 5. Counselors, social workers, youth workers, pastors, and many other professionals must be equipped to counsel and guide people from a multiplicity of cultural backgrounds.7 Kingdom-oriented education requires education contextualized for this world, now – but with an eye toward the coming fulfillment of this kingdom. Thus, as educators, we have a responsibility to prepare students with the knowledge and skills to enter the workforce as professionals in various fields. The challenge, due to the rapidly changing cultural environment discussed earlier, is that many faculty members find themselves trying to equip students for a greater level of global engagement and cultural interaction than they themselves have experienced. Thus, we need tools to assist in this process as we seek to equip graduates who are professionally competent and culturally intelligent.
1 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR 2018 Figures at a Glance. http://www.unhcr.org (accessed May 27, 2018). 2 United States Census Bureau 2018, US and World Population Clock. https:// www.census.gov (accessed May 27, 2018). 3 Pew Research Center 2018, The Changing Religious Landscape. http:// www.pewforum.org (accessed May 27, 2018). 4 Ibid. 5 Soon Ang and Linn Van Dyne, “Conceptualization of Cultural Intelligence,” In Handbook of Cultural Intelligence: Theory, Measurement, and Applications, eds. Soon Ang and Linn Van Dyne (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2008), 3. 6 David Livermore, Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success (New York, NY: AMACOM, 2015); Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-term Missions with Cultural Intelligence (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013). 7 Liberty University is incorporating the CQ framework in many areas. If you are interested in learning more or incorporating it in your department or program, contact the author of this article for more information.
WHO’S AFRAID OF PLURALISM? There’s much to learn from the history of early Christianity as we think about how Christianity exists within, and speaks meaningfully to, western culture. Time and time again, we find the early Christians being confronted with questions that can help us as we reflect on the challenges that we face today. One of the most striking features of the Acts of the Apostles is its vivid depiction of Christian preachers and apologists proclaiming and defending their faith in a radically pluralist culture. It is often suggested that the issue of religious pluralism is something new, which introduced hitherto unimagined difficulties in the path of Christian claims, particularly those concerning the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ. Yet religious pluralism was as much a fact of life in the context in which Paul first preached the gospel in Europe as it is today. The rise of pluralism poses no fundamental problem to the theory or practice of Christian apologetics or evangelism; indeed, if anything, it brings us closer to the world of the New Testament itself. The term “pluralism” is used in two quite different senses. One is empirical — the observation that our culture has multiple ways of thinking about the true, the good, and the beautiful. This was true in the first century, and is true for most of us today as well. Commenting on the situation confronted by the early church, the evangelist Michael Green points out that in making ultimate claims for Jesus, the early Christians did not denounce other faiths: “they simply proclaimed Jesus with all the power and persuasiveness at their disposal.”¹ Yet there is a second sense of the term “pluralism” — a belief that normative claims to truth are to be censured as imperialist and divisive. In this sense, pluralism is a prescriptive ideology, seeking to lay down what may be believed, rather than merely describe what is believed. In the end, of course, such a pluralist ideology falls
Alister McGrath Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion, University of Oxford
Mere Apologetics teaches a method that appeals not only to the mind but also to the heart and the imagination. After discussing the biblical basis for and historical uses of apologetics, McGrath offers various approaches for sharing one’s faith with others. He outlines pointers to faith, such as our innate sense of longing for justice, our appreciation for beauty, the order we see in the physical world, and much more. He also shows how there are many right ways to share your faith--through explanations, arguments, stories, and images--and helps you decide which works best for your personality and your audience.
Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers & Skeptics Find Faith, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012, $18.99.
victim to its own self-referentiality. Normative pluralism needs to be true if it is to be taken seriously; yet if it is true, it dissolves its own claims to tell the truth and demonstrate that others are wrong. It is important to realize that one of the reasons why so many in the west have embraced some form of normative pluralism is the collapse of the Enlightenment’s confidence in the power of reason to provide absolute universal foundations for our truthclaims, allowing to achieve finality in the human search for truth. Much of the distress concerning pluralism and relativism which we find in western cultural today actually originates from a crisis in the secular mentality of modern western culture, rather than from any crisis in Christianity itself.
Locating our Approach The early Christian apologists proclaimed a particular event—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—which they understood to be of universal relevance. Their task was to lodge the realities of the Christian gospel in the experiential and conceptual world of their audiences, and explain and embody the new way of life that this made possible. The Acts of the Apostles is replete with examples of these approaches. Peter’s famous Pentecost sermon (Acts 2) shows how Christianity is the fulfillment of the hopes and expectations of Judaism. Paul’s address at Mars Hill, Athens, showed how Christianity connected up with some of the deepest longings and aspirations of human nature (Acts 17). As these remarkable sermons make clear, Christian apologists need to develop approaches which are tailored to the various elements of our cultural plurality. There is something to be learned from C. S. Lewis here. Lewis develops three quite different apologetic strategies in his writings, each of which relates to a distinct audience. In Mere Christianity (1952) and Miracles (1947), Lewis develops the case for the Christian faith based on an appeal to reason. The dominant apologetic theme in The Pilgrim’s Regress (1933) and Surprised by Joy (1955) is that the Christian faith is the fulfillment of human longing. In the celebrated Narnia novels (1950-6), Lewis appeals to the imagination as the gateway to the human soul. Yet there is no inconsistency here; Lewis appreciated that each of these approaches would connect with different groups of people, and developed an apologetic approach which would resonate with the particular needs and opportunities of these groups.
Some, however, might object that there remains a problem in affirming the truthfulness of the Christian gospel in our postmodern, pluralist age. Now there is much that needs to be said in response to this concern. Yet perhaps two things are of particular importance. First, Christians affirm that the Christian gospel is something that may be trusted. This is one of the most important elements of the rich biblical idea of truth, which contrasts with the shallow Enlightenment notion of truth as mere propositional correctness. We need to know who and what may be relied on; who and what are trustworthy. Our culture bombards us with multiple claims for our intellectual and existential loyalties. Yet a plurality of options does not entail a plurality of valid answers. The Christian gospel offers and makes possible a meaningful and transformed life, and invites its audiences to judge that claim on the basis of the evidence —including the way in which Christianity connects up with the realities of human experience. Think of Charles Colson’s encounter with C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. Colson found the chapter “The Great Sin” to offer a disconcertingly accurate description of his own dilemma, and pointed towards its possible transformation. Yet there is a second point. There is a close connection between pluralism and postmodernity. As is well known, postmodernity proclaims that there is no “grand story” —only a myriad of individual stories. This plurality of informing narratives underlies a pluralism of values and ideas. So which of these stories tells the truth? Which is the best? And it is here that postmodernity encounters a serious difficulty, in that it possesses no defensible criteria by which those questions may be answered. To enunciate any criteria by which a story might be judged is not simply to accept the normativity of those criteria themselves, but of the “grand story” or “big picture” within which they are embedded. Perhaps that’s why Stanley Fish came up with the idea of an “interpretive community” —a group of people who coalesce around a specific reading of a text which they find meaningful or persuasive, even though their reasons for being drawn to such a reading are problematic from a postmodern perspective.
Locating our Stories Christianity, which is not limited by postmodernity’s aversion to “grand narratives” — which some misread as a discrediting of such narratives — can draw on a rich understanding of reality, capable of articulating
defensible notions of truth and goodness. From its outset, Christianity was a group of people who gathered around a story, a person, and a text which they found meaningful and transformative. Yes, there were other stories, people, and texts around them,but they found this specific story, person, and text to speak to them powerfully and persuasively. That’s one of the reasons why personal testimonies are so important in a pluralist culture. Personal narratives of faith are a testimony to the capacity of the Christian gospel to change people, becoming an important part of their lives, so that an objective truth becomes a subjective reality without losing its objective character. There are many such personal narratives, yet all share a common feature: for Christians to tell their own story is to set out a narrative showing how Christianity became real, or demonstrating how Christianity is real, for living human beings. It is an affirmation of the truth of faith in the sense of demonstrating its capacity to change life, to give direction and meaning to real people, and to become a transforming reality in an individual’s personal existence. Yes, we live in a pluralist culture. Like the world of late classical antiquity, within which the Christian faith secured a growing presence, today’s western culture consists of multiple understandings of human nature, the meaning of life, and the nature of goodness. The task for individual Christians is to show, by reasoned argument and by the quality of their personal lives that there is something different, something distinctive, and above all something wonderful about the Christian faith that makes it a stand-out option – and that this is ultimately grounded in the truthfulness and trustworthiness of its grasp of reality. Jesus Christ is indeed “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Our task is to translate his significance into today’s micro-cultural vernaculars, and allow others to discover how he is indeed “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
Michael Green, Acts for Today: First Century Christianity for Twentieth
Century Christians (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1993), 38.
CENTER for APOLOGETICS & CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT Check Out Our Upcoming Senior Fellows’ Publications “ON READING WELL: FINDING THE GOOD LIFE THROUGH GREAT BOOKS”
Karen Swallow Prior Brazos, 2018
“COUNSELING TECHNIQUES: A COMPREHENSIVE RESOURCE FOR CHRISTIAN COUNSELORS”
Linda S. Mintle Zondervan, 2018
“THE MORALS OF THE STORY: GOOD NEWS ABOUT A GOOD GOD”
“A LEGACY OF PREACHING: APOSTLES TO THE REVIVALISTS”
David Baggett Marybeth Baggett IVP, 2018
Benjamin K. Forrest Kevin L. King Bill Curtis Dwayne Milioni IVP, 2018
Vince Bantu Visiting Professor of Missiology, and Director of the City Ministry Initiative, Covenant Theological Seminary
ORTHODOXY IN GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE:
THE RECEPTION OF NICENE THEOLOGY IN THE SYRIAC WORLD
Theology is the work of human beings situated in particular socio-cultural realities which shape the output of Christian communities. The reality of the cultural relativism problematizes any attempt to establish a monopoly on orthodoxy by a specific Christian community. All cultures are as equally tainted with sin just as they are created in the image of God. Theology must reflect a commitment to the truth of the Gospel and epistemic humility resulting from the cultural limitedness of God-talk. A case and example of such a balance is Ephrem the Syrian, a fourth century deacon and theologian serving in Nisibis, which was part of the Roman Empire.
Fourth Century Christianity and Ephrem the Syrian The most significant theological debate of the fourth century was Jesus’ divinity and relation to the Father. Early in the fourth century, Christianity in the Roman
Empire was synthesized with Hellenistic culture when Constantine legalized Christianity and made it the religion of the empire. This decree complicated matters for Christians outside of the dominant Roman culture and its hegemonic theological discourse. In 325 CE, a council was convened at Nicaea to answer the Christological questions the Roman Church was asking. Church fathers such as Athanasius promoted the term homoousias—meaning “of the same substance”—which became the banner of Nicene orthodoxy indicating the essential unity and ontological equality between God the Father and Christ the Son. Despite attempts at unifying the Christian world through this theological framework, the term homoousias had varying receptions even among those who would vehemently oppose any Arian or subordinationist understanding of the Trinity.1 The early-fifth century historian Socrates Scholasticus attests to the confusion that the word homoousias was causing even among the bishops present at Nicaea.2
uch confusion was exacerbated by linguistic and cultural factors for Christians articulating theology in languages other than Greek. Such was the case for Ephrem the Syrian.
Ephrem the Poet-Theologian Ephrem lived from around 306 to 373 CE; before, during and right up until the resolution of the Arian controversy. Ephrem was born in a Christian family and served as a deacon under the bishop Jacob, a signatory at the Council of Nicaea. Ephrem directed the School of Nisibis as a malphānā (or “teacher”) and was associated with a form of proto-monasticism — both of which were distinctly Syrian forms of church leadership.3 When Nisibis fell to the Persians after the death of the Roman emperor Julian in 363 CE, Ephrem evacuated Nisibis along with many other Christians and settled in the Syriac center of Urhoy (or, Edessa) where he composed the majority of his theological writings. Sebastian Brock has presented the Ephremian corpus in four primary categories:4 1) straight prose; 2) artistic prose; 3) memre—a Syriac literary form typically called “verse homilies”; and 4) madrāshe, a genre unique to the Syriac culture, which are stanzaic poems written in various syllable patterns involving a public recitation accompanied by a chorus to be recited by the congregation. The madrāshe make up the largest and most significant portion of Ephrem’s writing. These musical compositions were meant to be performed in a liturgical context for the purpose of memorial or biblical instruction. Ephrem’s madrāshe were often altered in order to better suit the specific pastoral situation.5 The rhetorical power of texts intended for public use—as many madrāshe were intended—gives credence to the role of rhetoric and polemic in the formation of theological and social identity.6
Ephrem the Orthodox Theologian Ephrem’s theological approach is integral in discerning his method for communicating orthodox doctrine to his congregants. Theologically, Ephrem commanded respect for the rāze (or “mysteries” or “symbols”) of God, a deep sense of the human incapacity to fully understand the rāze of God, and the dangers of attempting to define the nature or activity of God. Accordingly, Ephrem articulates his concern against “investigating” God in his Madrāshe on Faith writing: Whoever is capable of investigating becomes the container of what he investigates; a knowledge which
is capable of containing the Omniscient is greater than Him, for it has proved capable of measuring the whole of Him. A person who investigates the Father and Son is thus greater than them! Far be it, then, and something anathema, that the Father and Son should be investigated, while dust and ashes exalts itself.7 It is in the context of his concerns for haughty investigations of God that Ephrem’s contextualization of the Nicene language should be understood. He was surely a proponent of Nicene orthodoxy, and lays out a clear defense in his Madrāshe against the Heretics. Indeed, his use of madrāshe in prescribing Nicene orthodoxy was an attempt at appropriating this poetic cultural phenomenon originally popularized by the heretic Bardaisan. His appropriation of the madrāshe for advocating orthodox theology experienced profound success in promulgating an alternative system of religious belief among the populace of Urhoy (Edessa). The triumph of orthodoxy—which would later extend across the Syrian, Persian and Asian missionary destinations of Syriac Christianity—was due in large part to this ingenious cultural adaptation of the Gospel message. The caution Ephrem maintained against undue investigations should not obscure the unequivocal defense of orthodoxy during the fourth century that features prominently in his writings. While Ephrem opposes Arianism and any other theological attempt to posit a subordinationist status for the Son to the Father, he does so without reference to the famous council or its doctrinal language.8 Given the historical and theological significance of the Nicene council and its definition of orthodoxy, it is difficult to underestimate the significance of Ephrem’s decision to omit direct reference to the council and the word homoousias. Not only does Ephrem avoid the term, in one instance he refers to it negatively as an “addition”: “Why would we introduce some other thing into that truth he declared to us? The names that we have added ()ܢܢܦܣܘܐܕ, these, brothers, have become a foundation for the presumptuous. For all hated additions ()ܢܦܣ̈ܘܬ. You have added ( )ܬܦܣܘܐdisputes, and added ( )ܬܦܣܘܐcontroversies. You have recited the things written and silenced troublesome things. Praises to your clarity!”9 While not explicitly mentioned, it has been widely accepted that the “thing” that has been “added” to God’s truth by the “presumptuous” is the term homoousias. The repeated use of the word “addition” reveals Ephrem’s central concern of attempting to define the indefinable—a concern shared by many other fourthcentury theologians.10 Ephrem casts such “definitions” as an act of the marāhe, meaning “presumptious,” “bold,” or “audacious”—all grave errors.
Ephrem the Contextual Theologian Ephrem was a supporter of Nicene orthodoxy insofar as he condemns Arianism and any subordinationist understanding of the Trinity. He speaks of the Father and Son existing in “one essence” (ḥda ’itutā).11 This however, is relevant to his contextualizing of theology. Instead of using the earliest terms associated with a Syriac translation of the Nicene Creed (bar ’itutā or bar kyānā)12 he instead, nuances his linguistic treatment according to his culture and language. The terms bar ’itutā and bar kyānā only appear in Ephrem’s writings once and this was in his more academic writings.13 Ephrem did not feel these technical terms were suitable for the public, musical and interactive context in which his madrāshe were performed. Ephrem argues clearly for the equality of the Son and the Father and establishes Nicene orthodoxy in the Syriac-speaking world while avoiding the “presumptuous” attempts at theological “investigation.”14 Ephrem continues the Christian tradition begun in Scripture of communicating the universal truth of the Gospel through the use of cultural equivalents rather than transplanting foreign terminology. Years after Ephrem, the East Syriac recension of the Nicene Creed that was accepted and adapted at the Synod of Isaac at Seleucia-Ctesiphon in 410 CE in fact emphasizes the unity of nature between the Father and Son to a greater degree than the original Greek text. In addition to stating that the Son is bar kyānā with the Father, the Persian bishops inserted additional wording to the Creed utilizing the appropriate Syriac terminology: “And in His Son, the only one (ihidaye), who is born of Him, that is, however, from the essence (’itutā) of His Father.”15 Despite frequent alterations and adaptations of Ephrem’s liturgical compositions, there is no evidence that he added Nicene language to his madrāshe. The reason was pastoral. Ephrem’s concern was motivated by a desire to nurture the Syriac congregations with culturally and theologically accessible language. Madrāshe were a profound theological and cultural mechanism in the environs of Urhoy and therefore, not the appropriate context for new vocabulary that could serve as a stumbling block to spiritual formation and church life. In a smaller, academic setting, such terminology, while not frequently deployed, was occasionally acceptable for Ephrem. The Nicene Creed is a praiseworthy and pivotal attempt at explaining the truth of the divinity of
Christ through human language. However, in as far as all human language is limited to its socio-cultural context, the language of Nicaea was limited to those under the purview of its Greco-Roman milieu. The contextualization of biblical truths into specific cultural matrices of consciousness is a vital component to Christian mission.16 The theologian’s task is to make the transcendent truths of the Gospel, as revealed in Scripture, incarnate and embodied in localized language and concepts. The Gospel began with the Jews and quickly embraced Gentile culture. Before Christianity became seen as a white, Western religion, believers such as Ephrem the Syrian continued the biblical tradition of using contextualized and cultural equivalents to express the truth of Scripture.
R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1988), 274; J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, 3rd ed. (London: Longman, 1972), 242-254. 1
Steven K. Ross, Roman Edessa: Politics and Culture on the Eastern Fringes of the Roman Empire, 114-242 CE (New York, NY: Routledge, 2001), 130. 3
Sebastian P. Brock, The Luminous Eye: The Spiritual World Vision of Saint Ephrem the Syrian (Dubuque, IA: Cistercian, 1992), 18. 4
As in Ephrem’s madrāshe on the Syrian monk Julian Saba, Sidney Griffith, “Julian Saba, ‘Father of the Monks’ of Syria,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 2 (1994): 185-216. 5
Averil Cameron, “Texts as Weapons: Polemic in the Byzantine Dark Ages,” in Literacy and Power in the Ancient World, eds. Alan K. Bowman and Greg Woolf, 198-215 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 200. 6
Ephrem the Syrian, Madrashe on Faith, ed. Edmund Beck, Des Heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen de Fide (Louvain: Secretariat du SCO, 1955), 9:16. 7
Jeffrey T. Wickes, St. Ephrem the Syrian: The Hymns on Faith (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2015), 23. 8
Ephrem the Syrian, Madrashe on Faith, 52:14.
Frances M. Young, Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 31. 10
Ephrem the Syrian, Madrashe on Faith, 73:21.
Arthur Vööbus, “New Sources for the Symbol in Early Syrian Christianity,” Vigililae Christianae 26 (1972): 295. 12
Christian Lange, The Portrayal of Christ in the Syriac Commentary on the Diatessaron (Louvain: Corpus du SCO, 2005), 75; Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis, ed. Edward Matthews, Joseph Amar and Kathleen McVey in St. Ephrem the Syrian: Selected Prose Works (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1994), 69. 13
Ephrem the Syrian, Madrashe on Faith, 4:1.
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David Hosaflook Instructor of History, Liberty University
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GLOBAL TELLING OF THE GLOBAL TELLING OF OUR STORY: THE POTENTIAL OF MISSIOLOGICAL RESEARCH
The title of this article is no typo; my goal here is to argue for the importance of telling globally the global telling of the Christian message (i.e., missions history). The usefulness and opportunity of sharing the historical Evangelical-Protestant missionary enterprise is abundant. Consider the thousands of men, women and missionary children throughout history who have traveled abroad to “tell the old, old story.” They preached the Gospel and carried the love of God to countries far and wide in the name of Jesus Christ, affecting their destination countries’ literacy, education, spiritual life, female emancipation, public health, economics, theology, architecture, agriculture, human dignity, and even politics and nation building. The presence of missionaries among the nations is an extraordinary phenomenon that is no longer a tiny niche of historical research, but a field in its own right, presenting Evangelical scholars with unique opportunities for global cross-cultural engagement: professor-to-student, scholar-to-scholar, and institution-to-institution. Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the sending of the first two American Protestant missionaries to the Ottoman Empire. When Levi Parsons and Pliny Fisk were commissioned in 1819, the Ottoman Empire extended from modern Croatia down to parts of Sudan and Saudi Arabia, and encompassed the Balkans, Turkey, North Africa, the Holy Land, and Iraq. Their first destination for missionary service was to be Jerusalem. In the send-off service in Boston, Fisk preached from Acts 20:22-23: “And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there, save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.”1 his sermon proved prophetic. Parsons died within three years and Fisk within five, both succumbing to illness—a familiar end for many missionaries in the nineteenth century. When Parsons and Fisk were sent forth, they were given this exhortation: “The two grand inquiries ever
present in your mind will be ‘What good can be done?’ and ‘By what means?’ What can be done for Jews? What for pagans? What for Mohammedans? What for Christians?” Two hundred years later, we observe a growing trend: scholars from all around the world are asking similar questions, with a historical twist. Specifically, in the country of Albania they are asking, “What has been done by missionaries in my country over the past 200 years? And by what means was it accomplished?” Evangelicals on the sending side of missions have long been interested in these questions as they continue to hone their missiological praxis; however, for the purposes of this article, I am referring to the rising interest among indigenous scholars in nations historically on the receiving end of Western missionary enterprise. Scholars from diverse religious or non-religious backgrounds and academic disciplines are starting to explore how historical, Christian mission has impacted their specific horizon. And, in this seeking, some are discovering that the archives of Protestant mission boards contain massive troves of primary sources that shed new light on various and forgotten aspects of their national stories. During Albania’s communistic era, religion was banned and the Scriptures were burned. Only a few Christian books survived, preserved in the “forbidden” section of the National Library because they were indispensable to understanding the development of Albanian as a written language. In 1816, when the British and Foreign Bible Society decided to translate the New Testament into Albanian, there were no other Albanian books at all in circulation.3 Evangelical, Protestant Christianity, unlike other religions, does not rest until every person can read, or at least hear, the Scriptures in their heart language. This is the inevitable missiological outworking of Sola Scriptura. Thus, the Bible is the ultimate catalyst for literacy. Consequently—and here’s where it gets complex—literacy began to feed the Albanians’ desires for self-assertion and independence from the Ottoman Empire. Hence, something as apolitical as sharing the Jesus Story in the Albanian language unwittingly became
a highly politicized activity attracting the attention of governors, diplomats, patriarchs, kings and sultans. The amount of historical source materials generated by these cultural interactions is staggering, creating great demand for information and interpretation. It was, in fact, respected Albanian professors at the University of Tirana who bemoaned the lack of historical research on the Protestant history of Albania. Later, the National Library, which during communism had kept 19th century Albanian Bibles under lock and key, invited me to co-sponsor a Bibles exhibit and academic symposium about the Evangelical-Protestant contribution to the Albanian book.4 The demand for historical engagement regarding Evangelical missionary activity is not unique to Albania. Last October, the Institute of Albanian and Protestant Studies invited several institutions in the Republic of Macedonia to join together for a conference commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and the 200th anniversary of missionary activities in the Balkans. My hope was that we might be able to gather, say, fifty or so scholars, pastors, and students for a little convocation, but I underestimated the regional demand and interest. The event evolved into a four-day academic conference held at Parliament, hosted personally by the Speaker of Parliament, with TV coverage and esteemed guests from more than twelve nations ranging from Slovenia to Turkey.5 With the speed of travel and the digitization of archives, scholars in non-Protestant nations are discovering
Protestant missionaries turning up throughout their histories over the last two centuries. Eastern scholars find this phenomenon fascinating and important enough to justify their scholarly investment in Protestant mission research. An eminent Turkish scholar wrote recently that American missionaries have long been the missing link in the study of the late Ottoman period. For help in understanding this “missing link,” such scholars are seeking experts in the histories of these individuals, and in turn opening themselves to discovering this global story started millennia ago. But what kind of narrative will they discover? It seems natural to expect that Evangelical Protestant scholars would be the leading authorities and initiators of engagement concerning the history of our own missiological enterprise. We have told our stories well within the walls our own Evangelical churches and colleges. Yet sadly, we are missing opportunities for cross-cultural engagement at a time of unprecedented global interest among the intelligentsia and students looking for unexplored streams of research. If we do not shepherd the telling of own story, others will —but they will do so without a gospel-centric explanation of the “why” questions behind these mission stories. There is a growing worldwide body of scholars researching and publishing our missionary heritage—many of whom are not Christians.6 In one sense I view this positively, because it illustrates how significant an impact missionaries made in the world. Both Western and Eastern scholars are approaching Protestant missions
history from various angles—social studies, nationalism, gender issues, politics, and comparative theology. Many do not hold a sympathetic view of Christianity, and some have a decidedly anti-Evangelical bias. As one might expect, non-Evangelical scholars are less forgiving of the missionaries’ faults and often project Western politics, arrogant paternalism, intentional imperialism, and cultural demolition upon the raison d’être of Protestant missionary enterprise. Sometimes their criticisms and observations are spot on, and we should welcome their help in removing our rose-colored glasses, curing us of myopia, and alerting us to local perceptions being generated even today by modern missiological practices. But non-Evangelical historians also suffer from myopia. Many of their assumptions and conclusions are based on selective sources, or are flawed because they lack a native understanding of Protestant theology and the experience of Evangelical ethos, both essential for an accurate interpretation of source materials. By failing to engage, we fail to offer the checks and balances necessary to any scientific study, and we also miss opportunities to interact with influential people all over the world who, for one reason or another, are highly interested in the life and work of Evangelical Protestants. The global telling of the Jesus story is ultimately our story. As the narrative receives more and more international scholarly attention outside the walls of Evangelical churches and institutions, we must not miss our opportunities to engage and influence, to learn and to teach. We owe it to global scholarship, and we owe it to the thousands of missionaries who sacrificed everything to fulfill the Great Commission.
Annual Report of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (1820), 30. 1
“American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Instructions from the Prudential Committee to the Rev. Levi Parsons and the Rev. Pliny Fisk [Boston, 1819]”. American Research Institute in Turkey– Istanbul Archives, S46978, p. 7. 2
Scholars are aware of twenty rare Albanian publications between 1555–1816 when the Bible Society began its Albanian work. But none were in circulation, and none were intended for mass reading or public distribution, just limited copies intended primarily for monks who lived outside of Albania. These books were so unknown that most diplomats and linguists of the times thought no Albanian language publications had ever existed. 3
www.bksh.al/Te%20reja_ngjarje199.htm l (accessed April 23, 2018).
www.sobranie.mk/2014-108a853f-96e5-4cd4-8f5e-d9be30a94208ns_article-address-of-the-president-xhaferi-at-the-opening-of-the-balkanconference-on-the-occasion-of-the-500t.nspx (accessed April 23, 2018) 5
In recent years, for example, in a decidedly non-Christian nation, there have been twenty Ph.D. dissertations published by local, non-Christian scholars about the work of Evangelical Protestant missionaries in their country. 6
27 Bruce Ashford
Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
LISTENING WELL FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL: AN INTERVIEW WITH BRUCE ASHFORD Bruce Riley Ashford is Provost / Dean of the Faculty at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves as Professor of Theology and Culture. He is a Senior Fellow in Public Theology at the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics (Cambridge, UK) and a Research Fellow at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
Chatraw: Bruce, since you have had some experience
with Christian living in a foreign context due to your time in Russia, can you give our readers a glimpse of what it was like, what you did, and what you learned?
I moved to the city of Kazan in 1998. Prior to that trip, I had never been out of the country; learning the language and culture was a significant challenge for me. What made Kazan such a challenge for me is that it was a crossroad of liberal Muslims, atheists, agnostics, and nominal Eastern Orthodox Christians. With all of them together in one place, there was a kind of nihilistic feel. Looking back at that experience, it was a perfect example of what Charles Taylor describes in his book, A Secular Age, as “fragilized” and “cross-pressured.” Even those who ascribed to Christianity or Islam lacked confidence in their own beliefs.... As a result, learning how to bring Christianity into an interface within the cultural context was very difficult for me, and my first years’ worth of attempts were unfruitful. At first, I was only doing rationalist apologetics. I was giving reasons for Christian faith, and while they weren’t bad reasons, I was putting all my eggs in the basket of rationalist apologetics. The problem was that my approach was more suited for nineteenth century Americans.
Chatraw: What kind of adjustments did you make to
that approach? Did they help you connect in that culture?
Well, I began to listen more attentively to the folks to whom I was ministering, and I started
inviting them into the narrative world of the Bible. This is what missionaries must do—listen carefully to their social and cultural context before bringing the gospel into an interface. Because of the differences in global social and cultural contexts, if you are just giving reasons and making arguments, people are going to hear the words you say quite differently than you intend them. God, sin, salvation: you name it; they’re going to load those words with all sorts of unbiblical meaning. The only way to overcome this is to pay close attention to their thought processes and the questions that are most important to them.
Once you began to understand their culture and the questions they were asking, how did your connect that to the Gospel?
You draw them into a narrative world of Scripture. Only in a narrative world, as the Bible provides, can a person be captivated long enough to get inside a different social imaginary; then, when you begin to speak and share the gospel, they begin to hear those words within the context of the Bible’s narrative. I began to understand this concept through reading some of Lesslie Newbigin’s works. I had begun reading Newbigin in Russia but then began reading him in earnest when I got back to the states. He often told the story about a conversation he had with an Indonesian general. He was at a world missions conference, and the theme of the conference was strategies for converting Asia. The general leaned over to Newbigin and said, “Of course, we all know the real question is, ‘Can the West ever be converted?’” Although this may seem like an ironic statement, it is a near equivalent to what the writer of Hebrews expresses in his sixth chapter. If someone is repeatedly exposed to the Gospel and yet continues to reject it, how can they be restored to faith? Our current context in the States is, in some ways, very similar to the context in Russia twenty years
ago; Americans are, to use Taylor’s language again, “fragilized.” Our convictions are often fragile. We have a hard time believing what we say we believe, given that Christianity is so hotly contested by opposing views. Christianity has the feel of being inherently bad, and we’re told that our views, especially on sexual immorality, are not only wrong but evil.
Chatraw: That seems to be a pretty bleak picture of our current situation. What are some ways forward with all of that in mind?
Ashford: I learned several things from Newbigin.
First, we, as Christians, will be increasingly in the minority and thus, we will need to take a missionary approach within our own contexts. Newbigin often pointed to John 20:21, where Christ says, “As the father sent me, so I send you.” Newbigin explained that, when Jesus made this statement, he pointed to the holes in his hands and sides. In order to go as Jesus goes, the cross must shape our ministries and lives. Second, a missionary approach in the west needs to be prophetic, for we are called to proclaim truth even when it is opposed. Third, this approach is going to be sacrificial. If Jesus ministered as a homeless itinerant without a place to lay his head, then we are going to have to be willing to make sacrifices in our own ways. Fourth, we must also be humbly confident. I think Newbigin exuded this in his day. An example of this today is Tim Keller. Truly missional individuals exude a humble confidence that Christ will in fact return. No matter how bad it gets here on earth, we will never despair. We have faith that Christ will return and install a one-world government and a one-party system. On that day, justice will roll down like the waters [Amos 5:24]; this is our hope and our great confidence. Yet our confidence is a humble confidence because it will not be through our efforts that this will be ushered in.
Since we have talked so much about Newbigin, can you provide readers with a brief introduction to who he is and the importance of his work for Christians today?
Ashford: Lesslie Newbigin was a very small man,
but one of great stature – spiritually and theologically. Newbigin does theology and missiology, but he does it devotionally. He was a missionary in India, and when he came home from his time in the field, he devoted his efforts to figuring out what a missionary approach would look like for the West. He devoted the last 20 to 30 years of his life doing that and left a paper trail of nearly 30 books.
I think the question of what a missionary approach would look like in the West is one we don’t ask often. Christianity, to some extent, has been built into our legal institutions and our social discourse, and so we have not felt the pressure to take a missionary-like approach in the engagement of our own contexts. However, as our culture becomes more fractured and fragile, as it develops more animosity towards Christianity, and especially toward Christian views of marriage, sexuality, and gender, our approach to engagement must change. We would be wise to begin reflecting on Newbigin’s wisdom and writings; we are truly sojourners and aliens, called to be missionaries within the worlds in which we live.
In closing, could you give a couple of places to start if someone wants an introduction into Newbigin’s work?
Ashford: Yes. I guess I’d start with Foolishness to the
Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture, which allows us to see Newbigin’s heart for reaching the West with the gospel. I’d also recommend Signs amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, Truth to Tell: The Gospel as Public Truth, and Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt & Certainty in Christian Discipleship. The great thing about these books is that they all quite short but pack a powerful punch. They can be read quickly and with great benefit.
Theology disconnected from mission is not Christian theology at all. The pastors, professors, and missionaries writing Theology and Practice of Mission provide a clear biblical-theological framework for understanding the church’s mission to the nations. Toward that goal, the book holds three major sections: God’s mission, the church’s mission, and the church’s mission to the nations.
Third Annual Conference on Theology and Culture
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“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” ABRAHAM KUYPER
Frank Fox Professor of Global Studies, Rawlings School of Divinity, Liberty University
MISSION IN AN AGE OF GLOBAL CHRISTIANITY The Fact of Change The shift of the Christian majority to the global South has been rather quiet and gradual, allowing those who are isolated in former Christian power centers the possibility of thinking and acting as though nothing has changed with regards to global Christian dynamics. If these northern Christians fail to reorient effectively they face the danger of being insensitive, uninformed, and irrelevant. As early as the 1970's, European scholars, such as Andrew Walls, Edward Norman, and Walbert Buhlman, noted the coming shift in the population centers of Christianity.1 Estimates from 2017 indicated that the global South (Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania) contained 67% of the total of all affiliated Christians.2 This shift is still in process as it is projected that Christianity will soon move from being a majoritySouth tradition to an African-majority tradition.3 Jenkins warns of the danger of developing a “Southern Blindness” as especially reflected in various Christian institutional expressions—especially in publishing and the academy.4 History tells us of a time when scientific minds held a geocentric perspective in a heliocentric universe. The paradigm shifted, the old view was discarded, and now we see that the new perspective is more in line with reality. David Bosch applies paradigm theory to mission history suggesting that mission philosophy grows by revolutions, which push thinking and practice from one stage to another.5 We stand at such a juncture now searching for new paths of global discipleship. This moment in Christian history calls us to soberly consider that we are in the midst of a tectonic shift that is having and will have ramifications for the entire Christian world and mission.
The Need for Reorientation Today, we, in the global North (North America and Europe), need a realignment of our understanding regarding global Christian realities. Elmer Towns tells of his personal pilgrimage to twenty different nations to experience indigenous Christianity in former mission fields, and concludes, “The vitality of Christianity is
no longer in Western Christianity; rather, it is in the Global South and the Oriental Crescent [East Asia]. However, Western Christianity still considers itself superior to the rest of the world and expects all cultures to reflect its standards, vision, and values.”6 May all of us enter into such an enlightened perspective about the present and future state of the Christian world. The search for faithful discipleship in the era of Southern Christianity is a quest to reorient our perceptions and practices. This begins with understanding the context of this change.
The Flows of Mission In this era, mission flows in two opposite directions. As we know, prior to 1980 Christianity was centered in the West (global North) and missions was something that was from the “West to the rest.” Around 1980 something happened statistically when the population center of the Christian world shifted from North to South.7 Two specific flows of mission can be identified related to this, gradual but distinct, demographic shift. First, mission continues from North to South but in a renewed manner. Since the majority of Christians now live in the global South, they have become numerically the majority stakeholders of the Christian faith. Since, however, Christian infrastructure and wealth are still primarily found in the Global North, the opportunity arises to find new ways to serve the growing southern Church. If we think in terms of marketing the Christian services that are centered and developed in the global North, the customer base is increasingly in very different contexts than our own. The continued flow of relevant mission efforts to the global South calls for culturally intelligent contextualization that holds on to gospel fundamentals in a winsome manner. This will become the golden skill of the era of southern Christianity. New Testament scholar, Dean Flemming, points out that theological relevance in our current age will require listening to the theological voices from the global Christian world, recognizing that those majority voices are culturally
closer to the biblical text than those separated by layers of Western culture.8 In this emerging context, the Church of the global North must find its place in serving the growth and development of the worldwide church as an equal partner in Godâ€™s mission. The second flow is mission-sending which is bursting from the former mission fields. Various terms such as native missions, non-Western missions, indigenous missions, or Two-Thirds World missions are used to describe this growing phenomenon. Often exact numbers and polished statistics are difficult to arrive at, but this should not deter one from taking seriously the existence and reality of the booming non-Western mission movement. Ralph Winter credits Alan Tippet in his 1967 publication, Solomon Island Christianity, as a pioneer in recognizing the emergence of the indigenous missionary movement.9 Larry D. Pate was an early observer of this shift in mission sending. He remarks that from 1910 to 1985 the percentage of evangelical Christians from the non-Western world grew from 10% to 66%. He goes on to report on a 1988 survey showing that the emerging Two-Thirds World missionary movement, with 35,924 nonWestern missionaries serving in 118 countries; had already emerged. At that time the indigenous mission movement was growing at a rate that was ten times faster than the Western missionary movement.10 Since that time, increasing numbers of missionaries were sent out in the non-Western world as missions became â€œfrom everywhere to everywhere.â€? There are many modern examples of this shift in mission sending.11 Bruce Koch projected that if both foreign and domestic missionaries were factored in, the number of non-Western cross-cultural workers would be double that of their Western counterparts by 2010.12 The exact numbers are difficult to quantify and definitions also cloud the issue. For example, in a multi-cultural nation
such as India, when a South Indian travels three days away by train to a distinct linguistic and cultural area of North India, this is vastly cross-cultural, but may not qualify as mission sending for some studies. Even the sending of missionaries in the West is being bolstered by recruits from the global South. For example, in 2008 U.S. mission agencies reported approximately twice as many non-Americans as Americans working for U.S. missions agencies. Furthermore, the number of non-Americans has tripled in the last decade.13 Missionaries that are being sent internationally are increasingly coming from nations in the global South. In the Gordon-Conwell study, nine of the top twenty mission sending nations in 2010 were from the global South. They are respectively: Brazil, South Korea, India, South Africa, the Philippines, Mexico, China, Colombia, and Nigeria.14 What then can prepare the global northern Church for relevance in the context of world missions?
The Future of Christianity Consider four measures that can help us to be pertinent in our perceptions and practices as minority-northern Christians. First, as northern Christians, we need to humbly take our place at the table recognizing that we are called to kingdom relationships which demonstrate humility and respect rather than superiority and inferiority. This is something that sounds simple but has historically proven difficult. In particular this dynamic is complicated by the fact that the United States still remains the largest mission-sending nation and secondly, that the global North still has most of the Christian financial resources. Second, northern Christians have historically been in the roles of initiators, pioneers, founders, benefactors,
and parents. Those accustomed to a patron role will need to learn to be genuine team members and even subordinates. Partnership in mission is not a new concept, but the acute necessity of mutuality has taken a quantum leap in this age of global Christianity. This prepares the way for the right kind of mission sending from the North. Global workers need to be not only culturally sensitive but increasingly specialized with skill sets that serve the self-perceived needs of the receiving church and organization. This begins by giving agency to former receiving nations to be in charge of their own partnership needs.
Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 3 1
T. M. Johnson, G. A. Zurlo, A. W. Hickman & P. F. Crossing, “Christianity 2017: Five Hundred Years of Protestant Christianity,” International Bulletin of Mission Research 41: 1 (2017): 6. 2
Jenkins, Christendom, 4,5.
David Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Mary Knoll: Orbis, 1995). 5
Elmer Towns. Planting Reproducing Churches (Shippensburg: Destiny Image, 2018), 33. 6
Todd Johnson and Sandra K. Lee, “From Western Christendom to Global Christianity,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement 4th edition, ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009), 387. 7
Third, northern Christian educators need to rediscover the role of learner and what it is to become an authentic colleague. The key here is to move away from a power dynamic and toward an equitable structure of peer interaction. Cultural Intelligence, as per David Livermore, becomes the currency of Christian exchange in this new era. One place to begin is to be intentional about acknowledging and including scholarly spokespersons and resources originating outside the Global North. Fourth, as Christianity grows in the global South, it is shrinking in the global North. This means that we northern Christians will need to increasingly lean on our Southern brethren. There are already many examples of mission ventures from the global South to global North and the movement of Christian personnel to fill vacant posts in churches and institutions. These will and should continue.15 Relevance in mission within the context of global Christianity is not only possible but probable, but it necessitates an attitude of humility and the intentional pursuit of reorientation.
Dean Flemming, Contextualization in the New Testament: Patterns for Theology and Mission, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 313). 8
Ralph Winter. “The New Explosion of Missions in the Non-Western World,” Mission Frontiers January (1983), accessed March 21, 2018, http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/the-explosion-of-newmissi... 9
Larry Pate, “The Dramatic Growth of Two-Thirds World Missionaries,” 27-40, in Internationalizing Missionary Training, ed. David Taylor (Grand Rapids: World Evangelical Fellowship Missions Commission, 1992), 28. 10
One of many possible examples is: Edward L. Smither, Brazilian Evangelical Missions in the ArabWorld: History, Culture, Practice and Theology, (Oregon: Pickwick, 2012). 11
Bruce Koch, “The Surging Non-Western Mission Force,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement 4th edition, ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009), 370. 12
A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey, 2nd edition,. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015), 271. 13
Todd M. Johnson, et. al.., Christianity in its Global Context, (Gordon Conwell Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary: 2013), 76, accessed March 26, 2018, http:/ www. gordonconwell.edu/ockenga/research/.../ChristianityinitsGlobalContext. pdf. 14
33 Edward L. Smither Dean of Intercultural Studies, Columbia International University
CONNECTING WITH SECULAR MUSLIMS THROUGH HISTORY AND FILM:
EVALUATING “AUGUSTINE: SON OF HER TEARS.” North Africa possesses a rich Christian history, including the stories of martyrs such as Perpetua and Felicitas (d. 202) and theologians like Tertullian (ca. 160-ca. 220), Cyprian (195-258), and Augustine (354-430). While many educated North Africans today may know these names, they do not know the stories of faith in the lives of these individuals. Nearly a decade ago a group of Middle Eastern and North African Christians started to explore making a historic film in order to share the gospel among Muslims in the region. The result of this endeavor is the recently completed feature film, “Augustine: Son of Her Tears,” which has been released and is currently premiering at film festivals and special showings around the Arab world. The following is an introduction to this project and some reflections on cultural engagement from it.
Background: The Making of “Augustine: Son of Her Tears” During the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (Cape Town, South Africa, 2010) a group of Middle Eastern and North African Christians with decades of experience in Christian media began talking about making a film on Augustine of Hippo’s faith journey. Once a script was drafted, they approached acclaimed Tunisian producer, Abdel Aziz Ben Mlouka about making the film. In addition to private funding, the group secured resources from both the Algerian and Tunisian governments. Finally, leading Algerian and Tunisian actors were cast, including Ahmed Amine Ben Saad, who played the role of Augustine, and Aicha Ben Ahmed, who played Monica.1 Written, funded, directed, and performed by North Africans— most of whom are not Christians—this film is truly a North African cultural product.
Essence of the Film This is how the film makers described the film: When Hedi, a young filmmaker in Paris, is chosen to create a documentary about St. Augustine, he begins his journey to learn about an influential philosopher who shaped the western world. To learn about the North African, St. Augustine, Hedi must face his Algerian heritage he left behind years ago. Hedi comes to find that this fourth century man’s life is not so different from his own. Transported into Augustine’s world, Hedi’s research reveals how Augustine witnessed an undeniable relationship between his mother and God that challenged him to seek the truth for himself . . . In turn, Hedi finds parallels in confronting family, love, God, and truth. He is challenged to reevaluate his own priorities and how they will define his life.2 Overall, the film faithfully narrates Augustine’s Confessions, capturing the period of his rebellious and wandering youth, his educational path, and his career teaching rhetoric in Carthage, Tagaste, Rome, and Milan. We meet Ambrose of Milan (337-397), the deacon Simplicianus, and, of course his mother Monica—three key individuals who helped Augustine grasp the Christian faith. The film ends with Augustine believing the gospel and being baptized by Ambrose in Milan.3
Initial Premieres and Showings To this point the film has been shown in special premieres and film festivals. Beginning in October 2016, the Tunisian Ministry of Culture showed “Augustine” at a premiere leading up to the fiftieth anniversary of the famed Carthage (Tunisia) Film Festival. In 2017 and 2018, special premieres and showings took place in Alexandria and Cairo (Egypt),
Beirut (Lebanon), Oran (Algeria), Rabat (Morocco), as well as at the Vatican. The audiences have included government officials, particularly those connected with the ministries of culture, as well as other influential members of society. In countries such as Egypt and Lebanon where there are ancient Christian churches, leaders of those communities have attended alongside Muslims. Everyone involved in viewing the “Augustine” premieres—from North African Muslim culture ministers to Coptic priests in Egypt to the North African actors themselves—has a rightful claim to the story of Augustine as a part of their cultural, regional, or religious heritage. Capturing Augustine’s story on film has proven to be an opportunity to present the gospel in the cultures where it is being shown. North African Muslims have been receptive for at least four reasons.
Intellectual Biography First, secular Muslims connect with Augustine because of his intellectual journey. Reared in a fourth-century African catholic context, Augustine rejected what he perceived was the anti-intellectual posture of the church leadership. Struggling with the crude stories from the Old Testament, he gravitated toward the Manichean sect, an eloquent group that offered him space to think and pose questions. They also had something to say about the problem of evil. Eventually growing tired of eloquence that lacked substance, Augustine’s mind and imagination were captured by Platonic philosophy. During this philosophical journey, and a career path teaching rhetoric that led him to Rome and then Milan, Augustine encountered Bishop Ambrose. In Ambrose, Augustine found a man trained in philosophy who could communicate well. Ambrose’s allegorical approach to Scripture resolved many of the problems Augustine had with Christian ideas. In addition, the Milanese deacon Simplicianus, who spent much more time with Augustine than Ambrose did, answered many of Augustine’s questions. Augustine wrestled with many intellectual questions in his faith journey and this path of reflection connects with thinking North African Muslims today.
A Spiritual Journey Second, though Augustine was a philosopher it did not mean that his journey was not deeply spiritual. From Confessions, we see that his spiritual struggle was probably greater than his intellectual one. Augustine confessed challenges with overeating, overthinking, longing for the praise and acceptance of others, and, of course, with sexual temptation. In fact, he described his
conversion to faith in terms of freedom from the flesh.4 This moral and spiritual struggle ought to resonate with modern, secular North Africans.
A Messy Story Third, Augustine’s story is also relevant because it is messy. He grew up in a home with a pagan and sometimes violent father alongside a godly, praying, yet sometimes controlling, mother. Ironically, in Confessions, Augustine is more critical of his Christian mother than his non-believing father. A man of his times, Augustine took a mistress, and cohabitated with her for many years. Together they had a son. Because his mistress was from a different social class, their marriage was not legally permissible. As Monica pushed Augustine to marry, Augustine was forced to send his mistress home to Africa, which he likened to having his own flesh ripped out. Later, Augustine experienced the unthinkable when his son, Adeodatus, died while still in his teens. The pain of Augustine’s family story is relevant to many North Africans today, and also to others seeking peace in a world of chaos.
Faith Stories with a Faith Story Finally, the shape of the “Augustine” film, in which Hedi’s story intersects with Augustine’s journey, allows modern viewers to personally enter in to Augustine’s faith story. With its story within a story structure, the film actually parallels well the eighth chapter of Augustine’s Confessions. In telling his own story, Augustine also narrates the faith stories of four other converts—testimonies that clearly encouraged him on his own journey that Augustine in turn uses to influence his readers toward the gospel. One of these stories is about the philosopher Marius Victorinus. After being told of the story of Victorinus who was urged to forsake his public reputation and declare his faith in the context of the church, Augustine reflected: “I was fired to imitate Victorinus.”5 These two had much in common as both men were interested in philosophy, were on a similar career path, had concerns about their public reputation, and had an interest in the Bible. Augustine was encouraged to pursue Christian faith because Victorinus had. In a prayerful commentary intended for his own readers, Augustine adds: “Come, Lord, arouse us and call us back, kindle us and seize us, prove to us how sweet you are in your burning tenderness; let us love you and run to you. Are there not many who return to you from a deeper, blinder pit than did Victorinus, many who draw near to you and are illumined as they become children of God?”6
Next, Augustine tells of how a Roman functionary named Ponticianus told him the story of the Egyptian monk Antony. While narrating this story, Ponticianus recounts how two Roman officials resigned their posts to follow the example of Antony. Intrigued by their accounts, Augustine wrote: “even while he [Ponticianus] spoke, you [God] were wrenching me back toward myself . . . that I might perceive my sin and hate it.”7 This story connected with Augustine for a number of reasons. Here Augustine was being told the story of one African (Antony) by another African (Ponticianus). Second, Antony’s conversion to an ascetic lifestyle—as well as the similar conversion of the officials from Trier—was meaningful for Augustine because one of his biggest obstacles to faith was sexual immorality. In fact, Augustine introduced the entire Ponticianus encounter with this prayerful commentary: “Now I will relate how you set me free from a craving for sexual gratification.”8 Third, Augustine, who had been quite infatuated with career ambitions, identified with the two officials who set aside their careers for the gospel. At the conclusion of his conversion account, Augustine testified that he was “no longer . . . entertaining any worldly hope.”9 As a result, he also resigned from his imperial post before moving back to Africa to pursue a monastic lifestyle.10 Augustine’s narrative of Antony and the two officials reached others with the gospel, including those whose career ambitions were poisoning their spiritual lives, or others like Augustine who struggled with sexual immorality. Augustine’s testimony in Confessions is one of the most celebrated conversion accounts from the early church. Through narrating faith stories within his own faith story, Augustine seems to have an evangelistic purpose for his late fourth- and early fifth-century readers, who could probably identify with at least one
Photo courtesy of Augustine: Son of Her Tears
of the characters mentioned in Augustine’s narrative. It seems that the new “Augustine” film might also engage modern North Africans who may in some way relate to Augustine’s story of intellectual pursuits, spiritual questions, family pain, ultimately resulting in redemption and hope.
Lessons in Cultural Engagement Three lessons stand out as I think about the opportunities for cultural engagement through this movie and the undergirding missiological principles in this project.
Mission through History First, since this film is a faithful presentation of the historic Augustine, it shows us the possibility of evangelism through cultural history. I found this to be true in my own journey while living, researching, and teaching in North Africa.11 On several occasions, I had the opportunity to present academic papers and lectures on the early church in North Africa, and on Augustine, who was the subject of my doctoral research.12 Interestingly, most of these opportunities were organized by North African academic colleagues—themselves atheists, secular, or just intellectually curious—who thought it would be good for North African Muslims to know more about the region’s Christian past. They saw Augustine as an important figure who was largely unknown and they wanted to change that. Once, I had the opportunity to give a two-hour presentation on the history of early North African
Christianity to the National History Society. During the question and answer time, a rather frustrated graduate student stood and asked: “we are Muslims, what does this history have to do with us?” While affirming his good question, I responded that I (a North American) really had no answer. Rather, only he and other North Africans could determine what this period of history and what figures like Augustine meant to them. Most North Africans I met were proud of their history, even their preIslamic Christian past that they hardly knew. In my experience, these conversations and presentations often turned into encouraging opportunities to share the gospel through history.13
Mission through Story
culture.14 Through making “Augustine,” the writers, producers, directors, and actors have cultivated a film that is culturally North African and which conveys Augustine’s journey to faith in the gospel. Edward L. Smither (Ph.D., University of Wales; Ph.D., University of Pretoria) is Dean of Intercultural Studies at Columbia International University. He is author of Augustine as Mentor (2009), Mission in the Early Church (2014), and Missionary Monks (2016). He taught and served in intercultural ministry in North Africa for many years, and is an Alumni of Liberty University.
For the complete cast, see Augustine: Son of Her Tears. Online: https:// www.augustinefilm.com/cast/ (accessed March 3, 2018). 1
Augustine: Son of Her Tears. Online: https://www.augustinefilm.com/ story-2/ (accessed February 27, 2018). 2
For a scholarly account of this period, see John J. O’Meara, The Young Augustine (Alba House, 2010). 3
Throughout the Arab-Muslim world, Christian witness, like the ideologies of political movements, has often been regarded as propaganda, and has been met with resistance. This becomes even more difficult when the evangelists come from the western world. “Augustine: Son of Her Tears” is not propaganda. It’s an attractive, winsome, and beautiful story crafted by veteran filmmakers and interpreted by acclaimed actors. Many missionaries today are rightly focused on letting the biblical narrative speak through storying, and also through telling their own faith stories. This new film on “Augustine” is another story telling opportunity in which to clarify the gospel story.
Mission through Making Culture Andy Crouch argues that the best way to redeem culture and fulfill the cultural mandate is to make more
See further Augustine, Confessions 8.30.
See further Edward L. Smither, “Remembering the Story: Historical Reflection Leading to Spiritual Dialogue.” Evangelical Missions Quarterly 45:3 (2009), 298-303. 11
See further Edward L. Smither, Augustine as Mentor: A Model for Preparing Spiritual Leaders (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2008). 12
See further Thomas Oden, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2008), 134-142. 13
See further Andy Crouch. Making Culture: Recovering our Creative Calling (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2008). 14
Joshua Michael '18 Global Studies Graduate, Liberty University
EXPERIENCES FROM GLOBAL EDUCATION:
THE NEED FOR CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE Before attending Liberty University, I attended a culturally diverse high school and helped lead a multidenominational Christian club that brought together believers from many traditions with a central vision— the worship of Jesus. This was my first glimpse of what the global church looked like: diverse expressions of worship, but Spirit empowered – connecting the head and the heart. My home church gave me several opportunities to travel for short-term global work, and these experiences helped me understand the reality that something exciting is happening around the world with God’s people. However, it wasn’t until I became a student at Liberty that I truly started to grasp what it meant to be part of the global church. I chose to major in both Global Studies and Communications; I want to work cross-culturally, both domestically and internationally, in large part because of my experiences in high school and with my home church. Being a part of the Global Studies department has helped me understand how much is happening in the global church. Millions of people are worshipping the one, true God, in different contexts, in different ways, and with different methods. Christianity is about being a global citizen of this world, coheir to the kingdom of Heaven, follower of Jesus, and member of the global church. It is important for those in various disciplines, including academia, to have an active role in the global church. Education provides an opportunity for believers to learn about the diversity of the global church. It expands horizons, grows cultural intelligence and bursts the bubble of self-centeredness. Globalization impacts our world more than ever before, especially in areas of business, media, and migration/urbanization. Defined as the “capability to function effectively across national, ethnic, and organizational cultures,” there has never been a greater need for cultural intelligence.1 Cultural intelligence (CQ) is not just for those who go overseas, it is relevant in our own backyard. While the 10-40 window contains the most unreached people
groups in the world, the 9-5 window of the regular work day may provide the most practical opportunity for engaging these people groups.2 CQ is relevant in the 9-5 window as we navigate organizational power structures, vision cast, motivate coworkers, and communicate with people. CQ is relevant for strategically approaching and reflecting on a crosscultural interaction. Opportunities abound for those of us who would take up the challenge to use our profession to share the good news cross-culturally. Millions of people are on the move due to selective economic migration and the increase in refugees fleeing famine, ethnic conflict, and terrorism. Whether we encounter people in our backyard that don’t look like us, talk like us, or have the same cultural values or whether we intentionally choose to move to a different global context, it’s important that we step into our role as a global Christian with professional excellence and in faith, ask the Holy Spirit to be our guide and draw the nations to a relationship with our Creator.
David Livermore, Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The New Secret to Success (New York: AMACOM, 2010), 4. 1
Dale Losch, A Better Way: Make Disciples Wherever Life Happens (Kansas City, MO: UFM International Inc. DBA Cross World, 2012), 70. 2
39 Eliza Hatfield '17 Global Studies Graduate, Liberty University
LEVERAGING BUSINESS AS A TOOL FOR KINGDOM ADVANCEMENT Growing up as a child of relief and development workers, I had a tremendous amount of exposure to global Christianity prior to my time at Liberty. My parents made an intentional effort to invite me to take part in their occupation and encouraged me to travel with them throughout the world, exposing me to community development projects and disaster responses. Seeing my parents and their colleagues meet both physical and spiritual needs challenged me at a young age to understand that global work is not just for seminarians, but also for agriculturists, teachers, doctors, and all who are willing to utilize their gifts to love the nations. My decision to pursue a Masters of Business Administration was largely based out of this mentality, one that has been refined and further developed during my time at Liberty. During the pursuit of my undergraduate degree, I had the opportunity to intern in Europe, working with a small population of North African immigrants. While there, I saw a grave need for the Gospel; however, I also saw a great need for jobs, skills training, and education. While in Europe, I worked for a non-profit business that existed to serve the immigrant community through teaching basic literacy and exercise classes and providing after school tutoring and activities for local children. For this purpose, a youth center has recently been built in hopes of beginning to train and equip immigrant
youth for the work force. While still in its preliminary stages, the business has afforded global workers a multitude of opportunities to share the Gospel in both word and deed. However, global workers there have expressed a great need for business expertise regarding how to better support and train the community. It was seeing and experiencing these tangible needs that drove me to pursue an MBA. While traditional evangelistic methods have proven successful in sharing the gospel with generations past, globalization, advancements in technology, and modernization have proved many of them to be outdated. The movement of holistic global work has been rebirthed in our generation, and we are beginning to see “secular” or non-religious skill sets affording global workers more opportunities to reach different niches of populations. While it is essential that global workers continue to equip themselves to teach and study the Word, it is also vital that they utilize their unique skill sets in working amidst the global church. In this way, they not only edify and benefit the body of Christ, but also spiritually and physically help the lost. To separate work into “sacred” ministry or “secular” vocation not only fails in the obvious sense of integrating one’s faith and learning, but also falls short of successfully reaching the lost. To intertwine the two is, perhaps, the most powerful way to take this good news to the ends of the earth.
Bethesda O’Connell Assistant Professor of Public and Community Health, School of Health Sciences, Liberty University Dominique Richburg Department of Public and Community Health, School of Health Sciences, Liberty University
BIOSAND WATER FILTER IMPLEMENTATION AND MONITORING:
PUBLIC HEALTH RESEARCH IN RWANDA
Implementation in Rwanda In 2009, Bethesda O’Connell completed a metaevaluation and pilot study on the use of biosand filters in southern Rwanda.4 Building off her established relationship with the Cyegera community, she is leading a team of students this summer to install eight new biosand water filters in homes throughout the village of Cyegera. During the trip, the team, (consisting of Nicole Solvig, Cali Anderson, and Dominique Richburg) will train families on the use of these water filtration units. Cyegera is located in the Southern province of Rwanda and is home to about 1,400 residents.4 Diarrheal diseases cause 17% of the total deaths in the country of Rwanda.4,6 Previous research indicates that water sources in Cyegera produce water that is unsafe for consumption, and research has shown that biosand filters have successfully reduced the risk of these water-born diseases.4 Biosand water filters are reasonably easy to use and maintain, and they will be provided free of cost to the community members. Ten filters that were previously installed in the community will be retested to ensure that they still produce safe drinking water. In addition, educational presentations will be given on proper bodily hygiene, malnutrition prevention, and malaria prevention.
Problem Statement Diarrheal diseases and other water-related diseases remain one of the leading causes of preventable death, specifically among children age five and under in developing countries.1 Diarrhea causes an estimated 1.8 million deaths every year.2 Diarrheal disease can last for a few days, leaving the body without the water and salts necessary for survival.3 In addition, other causes of death, including septic bacterial infections, are now accounting for an increased portion of all diarrhea-associated deaths.3
Other childhood diseases such as malnutrition and malaria are associated with diarrhea because, if a child is malnourished, their body is more susceptible to infectious diseases that cause diarrhea. Children with malnutrition and malaria are also at higher risk for life-threatening diarrhea.3
Etiology of Diarrheal Diseases Understanding the cause of diarrheal diseases is important; certain microbes contribute greatly to mortality, including rotavirus, Salmonella species (spp.), enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC), enteroaggregative Escherichia coli (EAEC), Shigella spp., and Vibrio cholerae.2 Most cases of diarrhea in developing regions of the world are simply diagnosed by symptoms, without a causal pathogen being identified; this is due almost entirely to a lack of diagnostic methods and similar treatments in these regions. Even though there are numerous pathogens that can cause diarrhea, such as the ones described above, there are also numerous ways to reduce infectious diarrheal illnesses. Diarrheal pathogens are frequently transmitted through water, food, or personal contact with a carrier. In order to prevent diarrheal illnesses from these common transmission sites, exposure to these transmissions should be prevented.
Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Diarrheal diseases occur due to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) practices.4 Enhancing adequate and safe water, sanitation, and hygiene measures at the population level lowers the chances of developing diarrhea.4 According to the World Health Organization (WHO), WASH is defined as “the provision of safe water for drinking, washing and domestic activities, the safe removal of waste (toilets and waste disposal) and health promotion activities to encourage protective health behavioral practices amongst the affected population.”4,5 Research has shown that inadequate drinking water is the leading cause of
death, causing 502,000 diarrheal deaths and 280,000 deaths due to inadequate sanitation worldwide in 2012.4,6 Approximately 780 million individuals have scarce access to adequate drinking water, especially those living in extreme poverty.4 These statistics alone confirm the significance of improving water and sanitation in low- and middleincome communities for the prevention of the diarrheal disease burden.6 Further, the most effective method of preventing diarrhea is household water filtration.4,6
Improved Water Quality with Biosand Water Filters One approach to improving drinking water and reducing diarrheal disease is through the use of the biosand water filter.4,7 The biosand water filter was developed by Dr. David Manz in the 1990s at the University of Calgary, Canada and is now primarily supported by his organization, Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST).4,7 Since 2009, CAWST projects that over 200,000 biosand filters have been implemented in over 70 countries worldwide.7
Figure 1. Biosand Water Filter Structure8
The biosand filter is an adaptation of the traditional slow sand filter, crafted to be both smaller and capable of intermittent use. The makeup of the biosand filter makes it suitable for households.7 The filter is comprised of a concrete or plastic container filled with layers of sand and rock prepared using CAWST methods.4,7 Figure 1 displays the general structure of the biosand water filter. In order to remove contaminants from the water, the biosand filter utilizes four methods: mechanical trapping, predation, adsorption, and natural death.7 In mechanical trapping, solids and microorganisms suspended in the water are trapped in small spaces between the sand grains.7 In predation, microorganisms are consumed by other microorganisms in the biolayer.7 In adsorption, microorganisms attach to each other, the suspended solids in the water, and the sand grains.7 Lastly, microorganisms in the water experience natural death due to lack of food or oxygen deep in the filter needed for survival.4,7 All four of these methods work together to improve the drinking water.4
Conclusion This entire project is being conducted in partnership with the local church, Community of Churches in Africa Cyegera Parish, and pastor Ernest Batera, as well as a faith-based non-profit that sponsors children’s home through the church, Hope 2.2.1., and a faithbased public health non-profit, Rwandese Health and Environment Project Initiative (RHEPI). These faithoriented partnerships will continue long after we leave and enhance the message of love to the community. Our personal motivations for this project stem from a desire to be salt and light in this world (Matt 5:13-16). Convictionally, we are challenged by Christ’s reflection that he did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for man (Matt 20:28). As Christians, we are called to be like Christ. We are made in His image and likeness. Christ was filled with a heart of service, and because of the example of Christ, believers are filled with a heart of grace for serving others as well. Ultimately, we are called to share his living water. One way to earn this opportunity is by first sharing safe drinking water. We can then move from solely addressing physical needs to addressing the spiritual needs as well.
Keusch GT, Fontaine O, Bhargava A, et al. Chapter 19. Diarrheal Diseases. Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries (2nd Edition). 2006:371-388. doi:10.1596/978-0-8213-6179-5/chpt-19. 1
Ahs J, Tao W, Löfgren J, Forsberg B. Diarrheal diseases in low-and middle-income countries: incidence, prevention and management. The Open Infectious Diseases Journal. 2010;4(2):113-124. doi:10.2174/187 4279301004020113. 2
World Health Organization. Diarrhoeal disease. http://www.who.int/ mediacentre/factsheets/fs330/en/. Updated May 1, 2017. Accessed April 17, 2018. 3
O'Connell B. Biosand Water Filter Evaluation: Meta-Evaluation and Pilot Study of Field Use Indicators. Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2016. http://dc.etsu.edu/etd/3059. 4
World Health Organization. Disaster Risk Management for Health: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. http://www.who.int/hac/events/drm_ fact_sheet_wash.pdf. Published 2011. Accessed April 18, 2018. 5
Prüss-Ustün A, Bartram J, Clasen T, et al. Burden of disease from inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene in low- and middle-income settings: a retrospective analysis of data from 145 countries. Trop Med Int Health. 2014;19(8):894-905. doi:10.1111/tmi.12329. 6
Biosand Filter Manual: Design, Construction, Installation, Operation and Maintenance. Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST). https://www.calvin.edu/academic/engineering/ senior-design/SeniorDesign09-10/team02/web/Biosand_Manual_ English.pdf. Published 2009. Accessed April 19, 2018 7
Biosand Filter. Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST). https://www.cawst.org/services/expertise/biosand-filter/moreinformation. Published 2015. Accessed April 19, 2018. 8
EQUIPPING STUDENTS TO FAITHFULLY ENGAGE CULTURE
Q UN I ON T H U R S DAY, N AT I ON AL O C T. 2 5 E V E NT Join with 25,000 Christians in college campuses and cities throughout the U.S. for a live event. Be inspired and challenged to engage your culture.
Redemptive Motive as a Basis for Dialogue: Interdisciplinary Engagement from Communications and Global Studies Donald H. Alban Jr., Professor of Communication Studies School of Communication & Digital Content, Liberty University C. Tim Chang, Associate Professor of Global Studies Rawlings School of Divinity, Liberty University
We who follow Christ are called to be a redemptive presence in the lives of those we encounter in our spiritually broken world (Matt 5:13-16). We are called, in other words, to interact with them as redemptive communicators. A redemptive communicator is one who purposes, above all, in his or her interactions with others to express an authentic love for God through expressions toward them that purposefully honor and promote what He values.1 The would-be communicator’s God-centered motive, no less than the content or intended outcome of his or her message content, is a distinguishing feature of the authentically redemptive communicative act or expression. Promoting God-valued outcomes for the wrong reasons is not enough. Indeed, as the Apostle Paul expressed this principle, unless one’s expression “comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith,” it becomes little more than “meaningless talk” (1 Tim 1:5-6, NIV). Among the many God-valued outcomes, the proclamation of the Gospel to unregenerate members of diverse cultures must remain in the forefront. Scripture affirms that God values our attempts to communicate the Gospel to those who do not know Him (Pss 67:1–2; 96:2–3; Isa 49:6; 52:7; Matt 5:14– 16; 28:18–20; Mark 13:9–10; 16:15; Acts 1:8; Rom 10:14–15). As the prophet Isaiah exclaimed, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'” (Isa. 52:7, NIV) Global Studies as an academic concentration aims more directly than most disciplines to advance this specific God-valued outcome. This program, as it functions at Liberty University, aims “to produce Christ-centered leaders with the values, knowledge,
and intercultural skills required to excel as individuals in their communities, lead as professionals in their fields and serve as followers of Christ in the global context of the 21st century.”2 As a redemptive communicator, the Global Studies academician purposefully advances this goal in at least three distinct ways: (1) by walking students through the study of the “culturally-other,” with an emphasis on knowing people as they are, understanding the worlds in which they live, and valuing them as God’s beloved creation; (2) by walking students through the study of “critical contextualization” as it pertains to communicating the Gospel in cross-cultural contexts, and (3) by walking students through the study of current issues in globalization, such as the influence of Islam, diaspora movements, and the implications these issues pose for individuals, churches, and organizations as they seek to impact the world. The calling to be redemptive and to do so, in part, by preparing others to be the same, is by no means limited to scholars of one academic concentration. As a redemptive communicator, the Communication Studies professor purposefully prepares students to advance God-valued outcomes by training them to think strategically and to conduct themselves ethically in their quests to craft impactful messages for diverse target audiences. These outcomes may include the proclamation of the Gospel, but may also include such other God-valued virtues as purity, peace, justice, compassion, mercy, humility, etc. The product of such a communication program will be trained to honor such ideals in the practice of his or her craft, not merely because these values consist with programmatic or industry norms, but because they are summum bonum as prescriptive expressions of God’s timelessly and changelessly perfect character and will.
If a principled commitment to honor God above all in everything that one does is what unifies redemptive communicators who work in higher education, then this guiding motive necessarily touches every aspect of their lives, including their academic lives. Whichever discipline each may represent, the overarching goal will be the same: to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31, NIV) by taking “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5, NIV) and to teach their students to do the same. The redemptive scholar understands, in the words of Abraham Kuyper, the Christian scholar, no less than the missionary or the clergyman, is “constantly standing before the face of God. He is employed in the service of his God. He has strictly to obey his God. And above all, he has to aim at the glory of his God.”3
interrelation of language, media, and culture as these impact each other’s attempts to be redemptive. Gaining from Communication Studies a greater understanding of narrative and persuasive theory and more diversified media creation aptitudes can enrich the Global Studies scholar as he or she trains students to “become all things to all people” (1 Cor 9:22) for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel to diverse audiences. Likewise, gaining from Global Studies a greater understanding of culture—how specific groups of people think, what they believe and why they believe it, how they express their values verbally and nonverbally in everyday life—can help Communication Studies scholars train students to factor these foundational considerations as they attempt to craft impact redemptive messages culturally distinguishable specific audiences.
Although scholars’ disparate points of focus will continue to distinguish the disciplines’ specific concerns, concentrations, and objectives from one another, their shared commitment to be redemptive in the practice of their scholarly craft yields to them a basis for the formation of mutually meaningful and beneficial interdisciplinary relationships and dialogues. With the redemptive ideal as their common motive, educators in otherwise detached disciplines like Global Studies and Communication Studies have a shared basis for exploring, in a goal-directed way, how each can strengthen the other in his or her quest to live out this ideal.
Although redemptive communicators in higher education represent distinct academic disciplines, we share a calling, as Christ-followers, to engage our students in a Christ-centered, God-honoring manner. When we connect with one another with this shared goal in mind, a symbiosis can emerge that makes us only stronger as we dialogue about our respective quests to realize this ideal in scholarly practice.
Donald H. Alban Jr., ed. Speech Communication: A Redemptive Introduction, 3rd ed. (Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt Publishers, 2015), 7276. 1
“Global Studies (B.S.)” accessed May 13, 2018, http://www.liberty.edu/ divinity/index.cfm?PID=28339. 2
One way Global Studies scholars and their Communication Studies colleagues can enrich each other as redemptive communicators is by exploring the
Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1931), 53. 3
A Christian Education in Name and Essence: Interdisciplinary Engagement from Spiritual Formation and Counseling Claudia E. Dempsey, Associate Professor of Religion Rawlings School of Divinity, Liberty University Joy Mwendwa, Associate Professor of Counseling School of Behavioral Sciences, Liberty University
Today’s college students are more diverse than ever. As technology has widened the doorway to the halls of academia, our student population has morphed from predominantly traditional students (who enter residential collegiate programs after high school) to a mixed array of ages, ethnicities, demographics, convictions, and learning preferences. Philosophically, these students are also distinctive because they bear the imprint of a “me-centered” ethos that exalts individuality and subjectivity over conformity and convention. Furthermore, many in this group have been lulled into a pervasive “spiritual apathy” which extends far past a mere lack of interest or moral concern. As offspring of a “used-to-be Christian” generation,1 this student body represents a population that has been inoculated against belief in God, and thus, consider spirituality an ornamental accessory rather than an implicit reality. So, even if a student comes to class embracing a Christian worldview, their perceptions will undoubtedly have been influenced by the messages and values of this postmodern culture. And it is into this quagmire that the Christian educator must go to foster an academic experience that is as Christian in essence as it is in name.
Changing our Perspective So, how does the Christian educator integrate Christ into a classroom whose student body has been anesthetized by contemporary philosophies and a numbing spiritual dearth? To begin with, we encourage Christian educators to recognize that they have been called to do far more than create an informative encounter framed by the
existence of God. Christianity is not merely a flavor one adds to enhance an educational process, and it is certainly not just a label we ascribe to our efforts because of our theological leanings. It is (or at least should be) a state of existence from which we, as educators, build a distinctive brand and form of education. To be truly “Christian,” (unlike an education that is “Christianly” in its ideals and delivery) we must cultivate a Spirit-led, transformative experience that begins at the feet of Jesus, responds to popular cultural narratives and embraces the cost of servant scholarship as we seek to shape the hearts and minds of our students. Consequently, we invite Christian educators, regardless of their fields of study, to reevaluate their perception of Christian education as they consider the need to foster gospelcentered exchanges in classrooms that are profoundly influenced by the contradicting philosophies and values of our culture.
Changing our Posture Education guru Howard Hendricks, suggests that “the effective teacher always teaches from the overflow of a full life.”2 But, we propose that if we are going to reach this culture, stained by absolute subjectivity, the Christian educator should teach from the overflow of a life devoted to Christ. In fact, we believe that it is Christ’s power at work within us, not the intellectual pedigree or credentials that line our hallowed halls, that is the deciding factor when it comes to penetrating the pervasive cultural narrative that shapes and lulls today’s students. Now, we are not suggesting that we minimize our pursuit of knowledge, academic growth, or research advancement, but in our quest for scholarship, we believe that Christian educators must first prepare for class at the foot of the Savior, rather than by leaning into their own knowledge and experience.
As we consider our brief window of opportunity to model genuine Christlikeness to those in our classrooms, we must realize that it is through the formation of our students’ entire personhood (not solely their intellects) that we can truly equip our students for lives of meaningful impact. Our students will often absorb who we are even more than the knowledge we espouse.
Changing our Response Having established the idea that Christian education should be passionately Christ-centered and driven by educators who see themselves as servants of the rugged cross rather than scholars of the ivory citadel, we want to now suggest how this sort of educator might engage a class shaped by contemporary cultural constructs. For this, we have selected 4 suggestions for today’s Christian educator: 1.
As noted above, we must realize that the worldview of our student population has shifted profoundly. The days when the masses were united by a belief in the existence of a common moral standard are gone. Today’s students emerge from a culture which asserts flawed visions of subjectivity, tolerance, and pluralism—not just as cultural norms,
but as inalienable rights. As we speak into lives indoctrinated by postmodernity, we must come prepared with an apologetic understanding of popular contemporary arguments. And, we must grant our students the right to hold imperfect perceptions—since that is where our example, love and message of truth may have its greatest impact. 2. We recommend active learning strategies which use real-life scenarios as the context for class discussion and learning. By citing and incorporating current issues and cultural trends in our courses, we can practice healthy responses and discuss practical solutions that will equip our students in developing life skills they can draw from when they navigate similar scenarios in the future. 3.
We also recommend an intentional effort to foster and maintain a hospitable learning environment that invites conversations and sincere questions without judgement. It is through these safe spaces that our students can address difficult topics and discover how to biblically engage a world drenched in absolute subjectivity and void of truth. Our students will undoubtedly collide with many raw and controversial issues when they exit
our classrooms. Why not address some of these now? By addressing them, we give students the opportunity to draw lessons from us on how to effectively respond when the questions and provocation of this postmodern world challenge their faith. 4. Finally, one way to bring Christ into our classrooms is to tangibly serve our students. If we establish environments of trust, it is likely that our students will confidentially share some of their spiritual, physical, and psychological needs. And we must be ready when they do. Our preparedness to respond when those needs surface may become the basis by which they later meet and serve the needs of others. We need to arm ourselves with an awareness of relevant resources available to our students, and remember that a shared meal, a coat, a hug, or an hour out of our busy schedules may mean more, years down than the road, than a letter grade on a transcript.
Closing Remarks As culture has shifted, so has the fabric and form of modern-day academia. Through this article, we sought to emphasize the reality that Christian educators are called to do more than simply provide a biblicallyinformed learning experience; we are called to provide an academic encounter centered on the truth, person, and love of Christ – the essence of a Christian education. To do this in today’s generation, however, we must be armed with an awareness of popular cultural narratives, a readiness to encounter damaged perspectives, a determination to create a hospitable learning environment, and a willingness to radically love and serve those who enter our classrooms.
Tim Keller, “The Supremacy of Christ and the Gospel in a Postmodern World,” September 30, 2006, https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/ the-supremacy-of-christ-and-the-gospel-in-a-postmodern-world (accessed March 16, 2018). 1
Howard Hendricks, Teaching to Change Lives: Seven Proven Ways to Make Your Teaching Come Alive (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Press, 2003), 17. 2
Conversing with Culture about our Shared Stories: Interdisciplinary Engagement from Literature and Philosophy Nathan Valle, Assistant Professor of English College of Arts and Sciences, Liberty University Sean Turchin, Associate Professor of Philosophy College of Arts and Sciences, Liberty University
Conversations contain questions and answers, stories and meaning. Some conversations are simplistic and easily forgotten, while others are replete with meaning and significance and are long remembered beyond the event. The disciplines of literature and philosophy uniquely engage in society through conversations in an attempt to make sense of the world. As Christian academics, part of our responsibility is to learn how to value, interpret, and engage conversations within our disciplines and communities — that we may in turn engage the stories of a wider, global stage. Engagement in these conversations is an act of stewardship central to our teaching purposes and missional mandate. However, in order to engage effectively, we must recognize the often unconscious frameworks that guide our conversations and understandings of the historical narratives. We come to the task of cultural engagement from two directions; yet, we both agree that our task is to understand and harness the stories that have preceded us. These stories are interpreted through different lenses, but our goal is the same— to teach learners and encourage them in their God-given callings. The differences in our methods and approaches to this goal enrich the community in which we find ourselves. Thus, we recognize the importance, from the outset, of identifying our story and building methodologies for engagement from this common commitment.
Foundation of our Story Each of us adheres to a particular worldview; a way in which we understand ourselves and our relationship to those around us. Such an understanding embodies answers and thoughts to those most perplexing questions such as: What is our purpose in this life? Is there a God? Is there life after death? Are there absolute
moral truths? and so on. These fundamental questions, and their corresponding answers provide the foundation for how we think and act in our world. As we engage in answering these questions, we are doing philosophy, thinking along with others, and conversing about such questions. Such questions betray our commonality, our deepest concerns, to which our conversations are often derived and constantly engaged; yet, engagement is often accomplished through the subtle art of storytelling. And thus, philosophers and essayists are both committed to examining life’s most important questions, and addressing these questions with salient and understandable responses. As Chesterton said, “Every true artist does feel, consciously or unconsciously, that he is touching transcendental truths, that his images are shadows of things seen through the veil.”1 The power of literature, of philosophy, and of communication in general—evidences that the human experience and condition is ubiquitous as well as unique. While specific experiences vary from individual to individual, humanity on a whole has similarly experienced the heights of joy and depths of pain, the ranges of love, and the fight against self-love. These realities have been addressed throughout the stories of every age and among philosophers from every era.
Conversing with Culture Literature, in all its genres, relies on an examination to reflect and expose truth about what it means to be human. Philosophy attempts the same vast undertaking, drawing explicit attention to how and why conversation reveals so much truth about the human condition. Both of these disciplines aim to converse with the prevailing ideas related to these ultimate questions about humanity. Even in the most insignificant conversations, a narrative is being told. That narrative, as Charles Taylor has noted,
reveals our fears and loves. These narratives of culture and society can serve as a means for Christians to engage in conversation with those around us. In other words, wherever we encounter conversation, we cannot hope to escape how the narratives of culture impact and influence our lives as on-going and sustained conversation that began before us and will continue after we have left this world. And in identifying these conversations, we find opportunity to engage with stories and share our answers to the questions being asked within them. We become part of the narrative itself, finding ourselves in the stories we read as we share the concerns of the author and the characters we find. Our long lasting intrigue with figures like Dostoevsky, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and others is largely a result of this shared conversation about what concerns us most. One such figure who addressed how these stories lend to explicating these questions was T.S. Eliot. As a central figure within the landscape of 20th century literature, his works reveals a relentless pursuit to understand how modernity has impacted our ability to converse with each other. In one of his essays, we are invited into the life and conversation of a character named J. Alfred Prufrock; but, far from partaking in conversation, he instead emphasizes that “there will be time . . . there will be time / to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet” (23, 26-7). The main character, while desirous of conversation, is unable to engage in conversation. This disengagement leaves him in a place where he is forced to admit that “[i] t is impossible to say just what I mean!” (104). While at a tea party, he admits that the conversations around him ultimately matter little for his life, and he contextualizes his existential crisis as evidence of a larger cultural problem: “For I have known them all . . . / Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, / I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” (4951). Meaningless conversation represents Prufrock’s greatest fear and reality—a meaningless, shallow life that comes and goes with no lasting effect.2
the concept of “story” as always “dealing with human meanings.”3 For Taylor, perceiving human meaning within a story means that we should consider what he calls the “social imaginary,”4 a term that describes our competing self-perceptions of each other in our various contexts and their relation. Our conversations, thus, are opportunities for situating ourselves as people in a broad conversation—able to offer answers to the questions that are being asked. Literature and philosophy, together, can teach us to accompany our conversations with purposeful reflection. Eliot famously remarked that “our development depends upon the people whom we meet in the course of our lives . . . include[ing] the authors whose books we read.”5 More than simply remembering what we have discussed, we should consider how these everyday conversations—whether in books, with our families, at church, or with our students—offer glimpses of our shared humanity and thus our answers to these shared questions.
Conversing to tell a New Story Our engagement in the stories that surround us are eschatological and missional—even if not overtly. The shared stories of humanity reveal to the observant critic that humanity’s shared experiences faintly reveal a shared beginning along with what will be a shared ending. Our conversations and answers, both philosophically and literarily, must point back to our common story because it is the beginning of what will be a shared epilogue unto eternity. Thus, our responsibility is to see our lives and words as conversations that offer intentional and deliberate engagement with our world. For the Christian, these conversations say the most.
G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007), 96. 1
T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock,”
Charles Taylor, The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press, 2016), 300. 3
Initially, readers might be tempted to see Eliot’s work as presenting an austere, hopeless picture of modern existence. Instead, readers should see the powerful potential of meaningful conversation and the many individuals they meet throughout their days who feel similarly to Prufrock who measures his days by coffee spoons. Here is a window into understanding the shared narratives of the lives within our culture. Conversations—in our fragmented, limited ways—are stories we tell each other, and our herculean task is to uncover both the conscious and unconscious narratives embedded within these stories. Charles Taylor describes
Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press, 2007), 171. 4
T.S. Eliot, Notes towards the Definition of Culture line 59.
Book Reviews Gabe McGann Student Fellow, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement Liberty University
Timothy Tennent, in his book Theology in the Context of World Christianity, confronts Western Christianity with the question: “What are our brothers and sisters thinking about and developing theologically across the world?” This work combines two disciplines, Systematic Theology and World Missions, into one coherent piece. Similar to many other systematic theology works, Tennent analyzes the doctrines of Christianity through theological categories, but he approaches each subject with a global lens. Tennent writes from a perspective that reflects a sense of urgency for the spread of the gospel, a pastoral care and affection for people, and a desire for brothers and sisters in Christ to be more aware of the theological strides and struggles that Christians are experiencing throughout the nations. Tennent begins his work by taking a look at the rise of the Global South and the theological progress that has been made there—despite being often overlooked by Western Christians. Tennent argues that these discoveries should be encouraging to Western believers. He then provides a systematic overview of global doctrinal development, beginning with Theology Proper and the contemporary discussion of whether the Father of Jesus was who Muhammad referred to as “Allah.” This question, as Tennent points out, is not only being asked in Arab cultures but in the West as well. Tennent addresses similar global questions and concerns as he progresses through the book, effectively demonstrating much of the theological work being done throughout the Majority World. Theology in the Context of World Christianity shines a light on subjects and conversations developing globally that many in the Western world are not aware of. This book will push those who read it “to have a broader, more globally aware, theological training” (19). The intersection between missions and theology is moving to the forefront of Christian thought as the Majority World produces new perspectives on longstanding discussions, and Tennent provides a comprehensive and clear introduction to some of those discussions. Tennent challenges the Western believer with new thoughts, organized in a systematic way. However, there is a devotional aspect to his work as well. Theology in the Context of World Christianity encourages students to engage with the global context in which Christianity is thriving. Tennent’s work is timely; Western Christians can easily be dismayed by the secularization of the culture in which they live. He states, “It is thrilling to see those who once were the object of our missionary endeavors now bringing the gospel back to us and reminding us of that which we have largely forgotten” (13). Theology in the Context of World Christianity, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007. $34.99
Sarah Stewart Student Fellow, Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement, Liberty University
A Trinitarian Theology of Religions: An Evangelical Proposal by Gerald R. McDermott and Harold A. Netland is both an engaging explanation of Evangelicalism as well an example of how Evangelicals should interact with other religions. This book will be of particular interest to anyone who enjoys the study of historical theology and wants to know how that study should inform their witness to other faiths. The authors approach the topic with great knowledge and respect toward those of other religions while demonstrating the uniqueness of the Christian narrative and upholding traditional evangelical beliefs. While the book remains Evangelical, it helps readers understand the way other forms of Christianity including Catholicism, mainline Protestantism, and Greek Orthodox Christians have responded to the challenge of the theology of religions. The authors do an excellent job of explaining how these various Christian traditions can aid in the evangelical witness to world religions. The idea presented by the authors of a renewed interest among Evangelicals in the study of the Trinity and its application to other areas of theology was refreshing and well argued. In doing so, they do not make a new appeal, but rather call Evangelicals back to their biblical roots. In using the Trinity as the standard for Christian interactions with world religions, they give the reader a definitive way to interact with those religions while holding to essential Christian teachings. This focus on the Trinity, while engaging in the study of the theology of religions, also allows for Evangelicals to uphold the strong emphasis that they have placed on Christology while also placing a new focus on the study of Pneumatology as it relates to world religions. The book begins with an overview of the history of Christian interactions with other religions, the history of Evangelicalism, and the history of Christian missions. This section is a well nuanced and concise explanation of elements of Christian history. The authors then provide a detailed explanation the doctrine of the Trinity, the issue at the center of their work. They persuasively make the case that the Trinity must be the standard at the center of the Christian theology of religions. From there, the book discusses several other areas of theology as they relate to the theology of world religions and the doctrine of the Trinity, including salvation and revelation. Interestingly, the book concludes with several scholarsâ€™ responses to the material. By addressing each of these concerns, the authors demonstrate the humble dialogue in which they encourage their readers to participate. Overall, this book is an excellent read for those concerned with how to better interact with and witness to people of other faiths. McDermott, Gerald R. and Harold A. Netland. A Trinitarian Theology of Religions: An Evangelical Proposal. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2014. $16
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Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement Senior Fellows Shawn Akers Mark Allen Joseph Brewer Keith Faulkner Mark Foreman Chris Gnanakan Edward Hindson Gary Isaacs Linda Mintle Karen Swallow Prior Gary Sibcy Samuel C. Smith
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” Revelation 7:9
Coming SPRING 2019 Vol. 3, no. 2 Faith and the Academy: Engaging Culture with Grace and Truth “Christian Community in an Age of Individualism”
The Rawlings School of Divinity Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement exists to equip students, faculty, and staff of Liberty Univers...
Published on Aug 14, 2018
The Rawlings School of Divinity Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement exists to equip students, faculty, and staff of Liberty Univers...